For 'Nova, win was all about 'attytood' Stingy 'D': The Cats smothered Kevin Durant and the Longhorns.

Posted: January 21, 2007

Most of the season, Villanova coach Jay Wright has been searching for an identity for the Wildcats. Yesterday, Texas coach Rick Barnes told them what it is.

"They defend you and they rebound the ball regardless of their size," Barnes said. "You don't have to be any size, shape or form. It's an attitude, and I think his teams play like that."

Villanova used its best defense of the season to defeat the No. 21 Longhorns, 76-69, for Villanova's second win in four days over a ranked opponent. The Wildcats had just taken down No. 20 Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Barnes' description sounds familiar to anyone who watched Villanova's four guards act like Mighty Mouse last season en route to an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament. With three of those starting guards, who thrived on outrebounding and outhustling opponents, in the NBA, the Wildcats took some time to reconnect with Wright's mantra of sound defense and attitude.

It was located again at the Wachovia Center, where the Wildcats (13-5) shut down Texas' Kevin Durant. They held the Longhorns' 6-foot-9 freshman sensation, who has been causing fits all over the Big Twelve, to just a free throw in the second half and only 12 points in 40 minutes of play.

A deep shinbone bruise to senior Curtis Sumpter kept the Wildcats' leading scorer on the bench. That meant they needed their defense more than ever against Texas (13-5), which was averaging 87.1 points a game.

Sophomores Shane Clark (6-7) and Dante Cunningham (6-9), with occasional help from 6-8 senior Will Sheridan, reduced Durant to a typical freshman.

Durant hardly touched the ball in the second half and was held to fewer than 20 points for only the third time this season. He also was limited to three rebounds in the second half and eight boards overall, which is three fewer than his average.

Durant, who makes 37.4 percent of his threes, rarely had a good look from behind the arc, where he went 1 for 8.

"We wanted to keep a long body on him," Wright said. "You've got to have length on him because he's so good on the perimeter. If you put a big guy on him and they don't have the quickness when he puts it on the floor, you can't get into him. These three can do that, and that was key."

Durant looked very little like the Division I leading freshman scorer, who averages 24.5 points per game.

Durant ended the game with a shot blocked by Sheridan and a three-point air ball. He walked off the court chewing on the collar of his orange jersey and with nothing but compliments for the way Villanova smothered him.

"Everywhere I was going they had two people in my face, and when I had the ball, they trapped," Durant said.

Clark, a Cardinal Dougherty product, and Cunningham have grown nicely after gaining valuable experience as freshmen.

Cunningham, who jolted the crowd of 18,742 with a two-handed dunk over Durant, scored 16 points with six rebounds. Clark, who started in place of Sumpter, added 11 points with 12 rebounds.

They were a solid combination with freshman Scottie Reynolds, who looks a year older every game.

Driving to the hoop more frequently and more aggressively, the freshman point guard scored 26 points and had six assists, five rebounds and three steals.

Not a bad follow-up to his career-high 27 points in a 102-87 win against Notre Dame.

"When we looked at the tape, we knew we were close," Reynolds said. "We were making little mistakes. That turns into big plays."

Sore Sumpter. Sumpter is listed as day-to-day heading into Villanova's Big East game in Providence on Tuesday. Wright said he was a game-time decision.

Sumpter, who was kicked in the leg in the Notre Dame game, warmed up and offered to go in during the game. He also is dealing with a left hamstring strain that has kept him out of practice since conference play began.

Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or sryan@phillynews.com.

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