Villanova completes great regular season

Posted: March 11, 2014

IF SELECTION SUNDAY was yesterday, Villanova almost certainly would have been the No. 1 seed in the East. When the preseason Associated Press poll came out, the Wildcats had zero votes.

After beating Georgetown, 77-59, Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, Villanova completed one of the best regular seasons in city basketball history, going 28-3 and 16-2 in the Big East, sweeping the Hoyas for the first time in the Big East era while also beating them by the largest margin in that time.

The Wildcats dominated the game barely 40 hours after beating Xavier in Cincinnati. This team has so many great attributes, but the best may be its toughness.

"This will be legendary," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of his team's season.

These juniors and seniors lost 19 games two seasons ago. They go to New York and Madison Square Garden this week as the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament. If they win it, they are a lock No. 1 seed in the East, with second- and third-round games in Buffalo, followed by potential regionals back at MSG.

The 'Cats shot 50.9 percent overall and 7-for-15 from three while forcing 18 Hoya turnovers. Five players scored in double figures, but Darrun Hilliard (19 points) was again the star. He has been brilliant over his last five games, scoring 18, 11, 26, 19 and 19 while shooting 31-for-53 (58.5 percent).

Georgetown (17-13, 8-10) needed the game a lot more than Villanova. You would never have noticed as the 'Cats owned the day. It has been their way all season. They just get ready for the next game and play the next game. The next game will be Thursday at noon against the winner of Wednesday's 8-9 game (Seton Hall-Butler).

Drexel out early

Drexel lost eight games by five points or less this season. Its quarterfinal CAA game in Baltimore against Northeastern was not like that.

The 90-81 loss really was not close most of the day. In fact, Northeastern (11-20) led 70-53 with 5 1/2 minutes left before Drexel made a wild late charge to get within six twice in the final minute.

Chris Fouch, playing his final game for the Dragons, was brilliant with 30 points, including 26 in the second half. Unfortunately, they played the first half and Drexel (16-14) just got too far behind.

Fouch (1,744 points) and fellow senior Frantz Massenat (1,646 points) combined for 3,390 points and more than a few memorable wins. They were also more than a bit unlucky.

They certainly did enough to get an NCAA bid in 2012, but were probably one of the final teams left out. Who knows what happens the last two seasons if Fouch had not gotten hurt last season and Damion Lee this season?

This Drexel team was good enough to go to California in the opener and make UCLA play to the buzzer and good enough to lead Arizona deep into the second half until Lee got hurt.

In the end, you get what you get. Drexel got 60 points in the second half, which is supposed to win. But Northeastern got 23 points and 15 rebounds from star Scott Eatherton and held on.

Owls win at buzzer

No team was more due for some good fortune than Temple. Still, with 5 seconds left at South Florida, it really looked like another brutal loss in a season filled with them.

The Owls trailed 54-36 with 8 1/2 minutes left. Dalton Pepper (20 points) and Will Cummings (14 points) then scored 23 straight points between them and got their team a tie and then a one-point lead.

But South Florida got a tip that looked like the game-winner until the Owls got the ball to Cummings on the move. He threw it ahead to Quenton DeCosey, who let a short runner go just before the buzzer. When it went in for his 18th point of the game, the Owls had a 66-65 win that will send them to Memphis this week in a pretty good mood for the American Tournament.

Temple (9-21, 4-14) will be the No. 8 seed playing No. 9 Central Florida on Wednesday. The Owls got a break when Cincinnati won a coin flip with Louisville for the No. 1 seed. If the Owls do beat UCF, they would get the Bearcats in the quarterfinals. Obviously, Cincinnati is no picnic, but Louisville is just an awful matchup for the Owls.

South Florida (12-19, 3-15) ended up finishing last in the AAC's first season. It was a rough go for Temple too, but the Owls do get a chance to keep playing and see where it takes them.

Feel-good story

Very little has gone right for Penn this season. When star sophomore Tony Hicks was ejected Friday night for throwing a punch in an ugly loss at Columbia, it meant he would have to miss the game at Cornell the next night.

Coach Jerome Allen chose senior Dau Jok to replace Hicks in the starting lineup. Jok, one of the best people ever to play at Penn, has had a few memorable moments in his career. He scored 18 last season against Lafayette, but he has mostly been a deep sub whose minutes have been limited.

Jok hit four threes in the game's first 5 1/2 minutes. He finished with a career-best 21 points as Penn (8-19, 5-8 Ivy) won, 69-65. Jok was 7-for-11 overall and 6-for-10 from three in 39 minutes against the Big Red (2-26, 1-13). It was a good second-to-last chapter in the Penn 2013-14 book that will close tomorrow night at Princeton.

Got to think Allen will give Jok some run as Penn goes for the sweep against the Tigers.


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