Villanova bounces back from Creighton debacle

ASSOCIATED PRESS Ryan Arcidiacono dives for loose ball during victory at Marquette.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Ryan Arcidiacono dives for loose ball during victory at Marquette.
Posted: January 28, 2014

VILLANOVA WENT to Marquette on Saturday and it was like the Creighton game never happened. The Wildcats played like they had been playing all season, led the entire game, got tied in the final 5 seconds of regulation, were denied a game-winning layup at the buzzer on a badly missed call and then won the game all over again in overtime.

Villanova won, 94-85, but that was just part of the story. Three 'Nova players - James Bell (career-best 30), Darrun Hilliard (20) and Ryan Arcidiacono (20) - combined for 70 points, but that wasn't it either.

"Ryan Arch," the sophomore point guard from Neshaminy High, was absolutely brilliant. He controlled the entire second half and overtime with one smart play after another (if we ignore when he lost his balance and fouled three-point shooting Todd Mayo to set up the tying free throws near the end of regulation). Arcidiacono had those 20 points, 11 assists and 0 turnovers, the first game this season where anybody in the country had at least 20 points, 10 assists and 0 turns.

The game went at the point guard's pace. He picked his spots, saw plays as they were developing and made dozens of great decisions, including an amazing rebound and immediate timeout late in OT with the result still unclear.

Villanova (17-2, 6-1 Big East) got control because it was so much better from the arc, outscoring Marquette (11-9, 3-4) by 30 to 6 from the line. Bell was a scoring machine.

The 'Cats almost blew it because, after leading 71-62 with a bit over 2 minutes left in regulation, they missed five free throws in 39 seconds and then fouled Mayo.

'Nova should have won it in regulation after Tony Chennault drove the length of the court in less than 5 seconds and banked in a shot at the buzzer. He was called for an offensive foul even though the defender clearly was inside the "can't take a charge there" semicircle in front of the rim and was not in a legal guarding position, either.

Villanova could not do much with Marquette big man Davante Gardner (29 points, 13 rebounds). Marquette was 29-for-51 on two-point shots. Still, Villanova was clearly the better team over 40 minutes. The Wildcats proved it again over the extra 5.

The 'Cats can go to 5-0 on the Big East road if they can win at slumping Georgetown tonight. The Hoyas were beaten at Creighton on Saturday, 76-63, and have lost four straight. Jabril Trawick (Abington Friends) has missed the last five games with a broken jaw and big man Joshua Smith (11.5 points per game) has been declared academically ineligible.

Brutal loss for La Salle

La Salle played its best stretch of basketball all season, outscored VCU 51-30 over a 19-minute span straddling the halves while shooting 19 of 25 over 16 minutes (76 percent), but lost in double overtime, 97-89.

It has been that kind of season for the Explorers (11-8, 3-2 Atlantic 10). Still, this loss felt like three. Or more.

VCU (16-4, 4-1) led 29-18 with 4 minutes left in the first half at Gola Arena. La Salle looked lost on offense. Then, the Explorers began to turn over the team that turns over everybody and played brilliantly for long enough to win. In fact, La Salle led 69-59 with 5 minutes left. It had won its last 34 games when leading with 5 minutes left so it went to its delay game. It should have worked.

But its last eight possessions were missed one-and-one, missed three, turnover, basket, basket, turnover, missed one-and-one, missed short shot at the buzzer.

You do not want to give VCU life because the Rams play to the finish line. Teveon Graham (34 points, 12 rebounds) was great. Juvonte Reddic (27 points, 15 rebounds) was a load.

La Salle's Tyrone Garland did not make a shot in the first half, but had 25 of his 30 in the second half and overtime. He was impossible to guard as La Salle seemed to take control of the game.

VCU missed just enough free throws to give La Salle a chance to hold and then win in the first OT. The Explorers could not do it. In the second OT, Rob Brandenberg, who had made one shot all game, hit two threes in 44 seconds to break the game open for the final time. And La Salle was left to wonder what had happened and how it might affect a season that seemed like it was getting back on track.

Web of defense

The issue in Saint Joseph's visit to Richmond was which of the teams' best units would be better. It was the Hawks' offense (63rd most efficient) against Richmond's defense (33rd most efficient). The Spiders' defense won that matchup decisively which gave them the game convincingly, 77-62.

SJU (40.3 percent) had been the much better three-point shooting team. The Spiders (14-6, 4-1 A-10) were shooting just 30.8 percent. The numbers did not play out. SJU was 6-for-22 from the arc while Richmond was 10-for-22.

It was always going to be hard to win by scoring just 62 points, but the SJU coaches could not have anticipated the three-point shooting from Terry Allen, Trey Davis and Deion Taylor, a combined 12-for-65 coming into the game. They were 5-for-6 from the arc.

Halil Kanacevic (21 points, career-best 19 rebounds) was great for SJU (13-6, 3-2), but the team shot just 26-for-70 (37.1 percent) and the Hawks' bench, such as it is, got outscored 24-2. SJU actually had a chance to get within six with 2 minutes left, but could not convert.

It took Langston Galloway a long time to get going, but he did make three treys to break Pat Carroll's school record for threes. He will finish somewhere north of 300 and the Hawks will need as many as they can get as they are in the midst of their toughest stretch of the season.

Drexel loses at buzzer

In the what-else-can-go-wrong-for-Drexel-this-season department, it looked like Chris Fouch (31 points) had delivered the game-winner for the Dragons with 10 seconds left against William & Mary at the DAC. Only Marcus Thornton finished off a brilliant day (10-for-15, 6-for-7 from the arc for 26 points) with a game-winning three at the buzzer.

It was a beautifully played 68-66 win for W & M, with the teams combining to shoot 50-for-104, 15-for-32 from the arc and commit just 13 turnovers.

It did not help Drexel (10-9, 2-4 CAA) that Frantz Massenat (19 points) fouled out with 1:46 left. And it did not help that William & Mary (11-7, 3-2) had Thornton.

All Ivy now for Penn

Penn (4-11) finished a forgettable non-conference season with an 89-74 win over NJIT (8-13) at the Palestra. Tony Hicks and Miles Jackson-Cartwright each had 23 points in a game that "featured" 59 fouls and 74 free-throw attempts.

The good news is that Penn is 1-0 in the Ivy with a win over Princeton. The next six Fridays and Saturdays, it is all Ivy, followed by a Tuesday finish at Princeton. Penn absolutely has the talent to compete in the league, even though Harvard remains a clear favorite. What happened in those non-con games won't matter for much if the Quakers can find a way to win more Ivy games than anybody else.


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