Villanova Wildcats

No. 1 Villanova easily beats Jay Wright's former team

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No. 1 Villanova easily beats Jay Wright's former team

BOX SCORE 

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- As Jay Wright recalled, the proposal was made by Ed Manetta.

Essentially, the question was: Would the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats want to return to his Long Island roots by bringing his team to the Nassau Coliseum for a game?

It was an offer he could not pass up.

"I said, `Yeah, it's perfect.' And I said, `Could we play Hofstra?'" Wright said after No. 1 Villanova remained unbeaten with a 95-71 rout of the Pride on Friday night at the Nassau Coliseum.

Wright, now in his 17th season at Villanova, compiled a 122-85 record in seven seasons at Hofstra, and still retains ties to the Long Island school.

"Hofstra worked (its) schedule so we can play this game," said Wright, who repeatedly emphasized that he would not bring Villanova to play Hofstra just to satisfy his ego. "I wouldn't want Villanova people to ever think I would take this game -- Villanova is not my team. It's not my school. I just work for them. It's not my right to take them to a place I love. So it worked out for me and I'm thrilled we were able to do it."

What he saw on the court was also relatively pleasing to him. Mikal Bridges scored 20 points and was one of five players in double figures for Villanova (12-0).

Omari Spellman had 19 points in 31 minutes, Phil Booth finished with 17, Donte DiVincenzo had 16 and Jalen Brunson added 14 points.

The win marked the fifth time this season that Villanova has scored at least 90 points in a game. The Wildcats' season high for points scored is 113 on Nov. 14 against Nicholls State.

"I feel good. I feel like we can get a lot better. I think our guys understand that. This was a good win against a good team," Wright said. "We know we can get better and (the players) know we can get better."

Justin Wright-Foreman had 25 points for the Pride (7-5), who have lost two straight. Rokas Gustys added 11.

"We're disappointed," Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. "You can't make mistakes against this team."

The Wildcats led 52-31 at halftime after Booth drilled a buzzer-beating 3 from 25 feet.

Villanova made 18 of 35 shots in the half, including 8 of 18 from 3-point range.

"That one possession was way more valuable than any practice," Wright said. "Phil was the third option."

The Wildcats began the second half by knocking down 5 of 8 shots in the first 4:32 and three of the five field goals were 3s.

After Villanova pushed its lead to 69-43 on Bridges' layup, Hofstra scored the next seven points, highlighted by Hunter Sabety's putback dunk of a missed dunk by Wright-Foreman.

Later, Eli Pemberton followed Jalen Ray's missed 3 with a putback jam of his own to cut the deficit to 82-62. From that point, though, Villanova went on a 13-9 run to end the game.

"Hofstra is a tough team to play," Wright said. "Scrappy. Joe has a great way to prepare for you. They prepare. They know all of your cuts. They change up their defenses. You can't look good.

"I think that's why that team, when they get to their league, is going to have a chance to win it."

The Wildcats outscored Hofstra 43-40 in the second half, and finished the game having made 47.9 percent of its shots from the field (34 of 71) and 47.1 percent of its 3s (16 of 34).

"The way they shoot the ball," Wright-Foreman said in response to a question about what stood out about Villanova. "Overall, a great team."

Big Picture
Hofstra: The Pride's early season has been a study in momentum, both positive and negative. Hofstra won its first three games before dropping three straight. The Pride, then, won four in a row before losing their last two.

Villanova: Among the reasons the Wildcats have been a perennial NCAA Tournament team during the Jay Wright Era has been their success in early season, non-conference play. Villanova improved to 61-3 in non-conference play dating to the 2013-14 season.

Notable
Hofstra: The Pride fell to 0-5 all-time against the Wildcats. Friday night's game was the first between the programs since Dec. 27, 1997, when the Pride - then coached by Wright - dropped an 86-74 decision.

Villanova: Despite the game taking place 132 miles northeast of Philadelphia in Uniondale, Villanova was the home team.

Up Next
Hofstra: Begins Colonial Athletic Association play Saturday at William & Mary.

Villanova: Tips off Big East play Wednesday night at DePaul.

Villanova's buzzer-beating win over Georgetown in 1999 was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

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Villanova's buzzer-beating win over Georgetown in 1999 was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

January 30th 1999.  I was a 15-year-old who wondered how the Phillies would build around Scott Rolen, marveled at Lindros and LeClair’s 40 goal seasons, happy to have Iverson back after a lockout and was suspicious about some guy named ‘Reid’ the Eagles just hired.  

In the midst of all this, my best bud, Ryan Bennett and his family, scored tickets to Villanova vs. Georgetown at the now Wells Fargo Center for a Saturday noon tipoff and they were kind enough to invite me along.  

I remember Ryan and I had a CYO High School basketball game that night in Lansdale at 7 p.m.

“No problem, plenty of time”, we thought. 

The Bennett’s picked me up at that morning and off we went to what would be the best game I ever saw... 

Our seats were in the upper level, 1st row, in a corner at the end Nova would be shooting at in the 2nd half.

Steve Lapas’ Wildcats opened with a 13-0 run on Craig Esherick’s Hoyas. Esherick had just taken over for the legend, John Thompson. 

Just as an aside. My friend and I kept thinking Esherick looked A LOT like Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds (aka Turd Ferguson) on SNL’s celebrity Jeopardy. You be the judge…

Anyway, back to basketball.  

In the 2nd half, the Wildcats built a 17-point lead only to see it wiped away with a 17-0 Hoyas run. Georgetown’s Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje’s lay-up tied the game at 67 with 2:30 left. RBB was a Cameroonian baller before it was trendy. 

I remember a slew of guys were in foul trouble. Including RBB and Malik Allen.

In the final :45 seconds, tied at 69-69, both Nova and G-town sent guys to the line to shoot two. Neither team hit a free throw. Missed all four.  

Nova had one final chance on an inbounds play with 11 seconds left in regulation. John Celestand got the ball, tried working for a shot, gave it up to Allen who shot and missed from the top of the key as time expired.  

1st OT

The Hoyas struck first with a three, then three players fouled out; the Hoyas’ RBB and Jaleel Watkins and Nova’s T.J. Caouette. Six players would end up fouling out of this game in total. 

With :11 seconds left and Nova down two, Brooks Sales hit two free throws to tie it at 78. Kevin Braswell, a freshman guard for the Hoyas brought the ball up and was picked up by Celestand. Braswell rose for the game winner with :03 seconds on the clock and Celestand stuffed him! The ball never even left the freshman’s hand! Celestand was all over it. Smothered! 

Time ran out. 

2nd OT 

The game seesawed a bit. Howard Brown banked in a three for Nova. Braswell responded with a driving lay-up. 82-81, Georgetown.

With a little over 2:00 left, Allen, fouled out.  Nova would keep pace thanks to a huge three from Brian Lynch with just over a minute left that gave the Cats an 87-86 lead.   

Then things got bleak for Nova. 

Georgetown took a 90-87 lead on another Braswell layup and a free throws from Daymond Jackson and Anthony Perry. Perry made the first of two, missed the second. Nova secured the rebound and pushed up the floor with :14 seconds left. 

Then a Nova Miracle. 

The Wildcats, down 3, crossed half court and set up their offense with nine seconds left. They worked it to Brown in the corner. The same corner my friend and I were sitting over in the upper level. Brown let it fly and hit the three to tie the game at 90. With 2.4 seconds left the Hoyas inbounded under the basket and threw a pass to half court. The ball was tipped by Nova and wound up in the hands of the Cats’ Jermaine Medley. Medley grabbed the ball, spun and shot all in one motion. 

Splash. 

Buzzer Beater. 

Nova Wins! 

The Wildcats scored six points in under four seconds to win in double overtime, 93-90. 

Me, Ryan and his parents jumped with excitement, high-fived and then ran to the parking lot. We had our own game to play. We got from the upper level to the car in record time and we were one of the first cars out of the lot. We just made our CYO game in Lansdale, which for the record, we won.

One of the things that made being at this game so awesome was that the broadcast had a horrible camera angle for Medley’s game winner. ESPN didn’t capture the shot live. When Ryan and I got to our game that night, a teammate couldn’t believe we “were at that game.” He said it wasn’t until replays aired that people at home actually saw what happened.  

Fast forward 17 years. I’m boarding a flight, Charlotte to Philadelphia. Christmas Eve. None-other-than Steve Lappas sits next to me. We get to talking. Incredibly nice guy. I bring up this Nova game. Two things he told me. He knew Celestand had Braswell on that block in the first OT and he still can’t believe how Medley made that circus shot at the end. Neither can I. 

Nova-Georgetown double OT, truly the best game I ever saw.  

The Kris Jenkins shot vs. North Carolina was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

The Kris Jenkins shot vs. North Carolina was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

Reuben Frank and Sean Kane both chose the 2016 national championship game between Villanova and North Carolina as the greatest game they ever saw in person. Reuben was there as a reporter, Sean was there as a fan. Here are each of their perspectives. 

Reuben Frank: We're taught from Day 1 as journalists to never let your emotions show, to remain unbiased, and for the first 33 years, six months and 12 days of my career I had a perfect record. Then Kris Jenkins hit a jumper. So much for objectivity. I was court-side at NRG Stadium in Houston - second row, center court - when Jenkins his that 26-footer at the buzzer to give Villanova the 2016 NCAA Championship over North Carolina, and I'm pretty sure that Mike Kern of the Daily News, sitting to my left, and I both stood up and looked at each other and screamed "OHHHHHHHHHHH" at the top of our lungs when the ball splashed through the basket as the buzzer sounded.

Then, as the confetti rained down from the roof and bedlam ensued, Jenkins for some reason ran right in front of me to celebrate and I began taking as many pictures as I could. The Super Bowl was dramatic and unforgettable. But for that Villanova-UNC game I was on top of the action, just a few feet from the court, just a few feet where I lost my cool after 33 years, just a few feet from the greatest shot in college basketball history. 

Sean Kane: This game narrowly edges out Super Bowl 52 and the classic Duke/Kentucky regional final at the Spectrum in 1992. I'm fortunate enough to have been in attendance for arguably the two greatest shots in college basketball history - Christian Laettner's turnaround jumper to beat Kentucky and Kris Jenkins' three-pointer to beat North Carolina. The 2016 national title game is my choice for a number of reasons. Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, I've been a Villanova fan for as long as I can remember. My grandfather went to Villanova. My uncle and cousin went there too. I've been going to Villanova basketball and football games since I was a little boy. So to be there to see my favorite team win a national championship at the buzzer? Nothing tops that. 

The 2016 Final Four was the first time I attended a Villanova NCAA Tournament game as a fan. I covered Villanova in the tournament every year from 2006-2009, trying my best to stay objective. But going as a fan was a new experience. My Dad and I decided to go as soon as Villanova beat Kansas in the Elite Eight. My wife immediately got us plane tickets and a hotel room in Houston and we left the morning of the national semifinals. We were there for Villanova's historic 44-point win over Oklahoma on Saturday night, the biggest blowout in Final Four history. The PGA Tour was in Houston that weekend, so we spent Sunday watching golf. It all worked out perfectly. Then the main event - Villanova and North Carolina in the championship game on Monday night. North Carolina had ended Villanova's season in the NCAA Tournament three times during the Jay Wright Era - 2005, 2009 and 2013. But this time was different thanks to Phil Booth's 20 points off the bench and Ryan Arcidiacono finding Jenkins for the win as the buzzer sounded. It was one of the greatest games in college basketball history. It ended with the best shot in NCAA Tournament history. And I was there to see it with my Dad, who raised me as a Villanova fan. That's as good as it gets for me.