Villanova Wildcats

No. 7 Villanova at Albany: Taking on strong defense in conference opener

villanova-albany-preview-slide.jpg
CSN

No. 7 Villanova at Albany: Taking on strong defense in conference opener

No. 7 Villanova (2-1, 0-0 CAA) at Albany (2-1, 0-0 CAA)
Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, Albany, New York
Saturday, 7 p.m.

It’s time for conference play as Villanova kicks off its CAA slate this weekend. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats asserted their FCS dominance last week with a 59-0 thrashing of overmatched Lafayette. That came two weeks after a win over another Patriot League team in Lehigh, which preceded an impressive showing in a loss to FBS Temple. All of which is to say that the Wildcats head into conference play as good as advertised as one of the juggernauts in the CAA, led by quarterback Zach Bednarczyk (who completed 13 of 15 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns last week), a balanced rushing attack (also last week: seven different ball carriers combined to run for 262 yards and three TDs), and a defense that slowed down Temple and had two TDs vs. Lafayette (and was among the nation’s best last season).

Scouting Albany
After losing to Old Dominion in their opener, the Great Danes have won two straight, shutting out Morgan State, 26-0, and doubling up Monmouth, 28-14. In last week’s win over Monmouth, redshirt sophomore quarterback Will Brunson threw for one touchdown and ran for another while the Albany defense, led by redshirt senior linebacker Nate Hatalsky (15 tackles), held one of FCS’s top rushing teams to just 63 yards on the ground. Picked to finish sixth in the CAA in the preseason, Albany also features an all-league running back in junior Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who scored a TD in his season debut last week after sitting out the first two games with an injury.

History
Villanova leads the all-time series, 3-0, having defeated the Great Danes in each of the past three seasons.

Storyline to watch
Albany’s defense is off to a solid start, ranking second in the CAA in both total defense and passing defense. Bednarczyk and company had a field day with Lehigh and Lafayette but it will be interesting to see how they manage the game, and balance the run vs. pass, against a more proficient defensive unit.

What’s at stake?
Winning on the road is never easy but if it wants to win the CAA, Villanova is going to have to stay unblemished until facing league powerhouse and defending national champion James Madison in mid-October.

Prediction
The Wildcats will immediately show why they’re one of the CAA’s best teams.

Villanova 28, Albany 17

No. 21 Villanova beats Saint Joseph's for 25th straight Big 5 win

usa_joe_cremo_jermaine_samuels_villanova_basketball.jpg
USA Today Images

No. 21 Villanova beats Saint Joseph's for 25th straight Big 5 win

BOX SCORE 

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Villanova soared to the top of the college basketball world by capturing national championships in two of the last three seasons.

The Wildcats have been kings of their own city for much longer.

Eric Paschall had 14 points and nine rebounds, and No. 21 Villanova beat Saint Joseph's 70-58 on Saturday for its 25th straight Big 5 victory.

Joe Cremo and Phil Booth scored 12 points apiece as the Wildcats (8-2) continued their dominance of the long-standing city series with Philadelphia rivals Saint Joseph's, Penn, La Salle and Temple. Jermaine Samuels added 11 points.

"It's just the intensity of it," Samuels said. "We're getting every team's best shot. They're not giving up. That's the biggest takeaway I've gotten from these Big 5 games."

Lamarr Kimble led Saint Joseph's (5-5) with 22 points. The Hawks played without Charlie Brown after the top scorer in the Atlantic 10 sprained his ankle in a win at Princeton on Wednesday.

Saint Joseph's struggled offensively, shooting 34.5 percent (20 for 58) from the field. The Hawks went 6 for 27 from 3-point range and 12 for 18 from the foul line.

"We've been getting kicked in the (butt) all year with missed layups," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "I think the same thing happened today."

Trailing 62-40 midway through the second half, the Hawks went on a 16-0 run to make things interesting. But a Booth 3-pointer and a Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree three-point play with 1:05 remaining helped seal Villanova's sixth straight win.

"We're starting to get more organized," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I think guys are starting to get more comfortable with each other. But we still have a lot of work to do."

Fresh off come-from-behind Big 5 victories over La Salle and Temple, Villanova began to pull away from Saint Joseph's late in the first half, taking a 38-28 lead into halftime on the strength of four 3-pointers from Cremo and two from Paschall, including one in the final minute.

The Wildcats extended their lead to 48-31 three minutes into the second half after back-to-back buckets from freshman Cole Swider capped a 10-0 run. Swider scored all eight of his points in the second half.

"It's hard as a freshman to come into these games," Wright said. "That's going to be the story of the season - how we can develop our young guys and our new guys."

No. 23 Villanova survives a scare from La Salle

usa_phil_booth_eric_paschall_celebration_villanova.jpg
USA Today Images

No. 23 Villanova survives a scare from La Salle

BOX SCORE 

Villanova coach Jay Wright was raised on Big 5 hoops and considers himself a bit of a keeper of the city series' legacy. He's also quick to warn the Wildcats that anything can happen when Philly teams play at the Palestra.

"It brings me back to childhood," Wright said. "Every time I step in this building, it's a special experience. Once the game comes, I just know crazy things are going to happen. I just expect it."

Winless La Salle came primed for an upset — but the only unpredictable part of a Villanova game against a city rival is the final score of its latest win. Eric Paschall scored 27 points, Phil Booth had 19 and No. 23 Villanova held off one more upset in an 85-78 win over La Salle on Saturday.

Villanova (6-2) remained the class of the city and won its 23rd straight Big 5 game, round-robin play among five Philadelphia Division I basketball teams. The Wildcats haven't lost a city series game since Dec. 5, 2012 against Temple.

They got a pretty good scare against winless La Salle (0-8).

The Wildcats were reeling after consecutive home losses to Michigan, in a national title game rematch, and in overtime to Furman that knocked them out of the AP Top 25 poll. Villanova steadied itself with three straight wins in a Florida tournament and defeated then-No. 14 Florida State in the title game to return to the rankings.

But a return to Philly only unsettled the Wildcats early.

La Salle was the home team at the Palestra, which serves as much a museum to Philly's glorious history as it is a court for city series games to be played on. The Explorers played the first half like an undefeated team instead of a winless one and buried nine 3-pointers. The sensational sequence came at the midway point: David Beatty drew a foul on a layup and La Salle kept possession. Isiah Deas capitalized with a 3. Beatty had a steal and Jack Clark hit a 3 for a 32-20 lead that set the stage for a monster upset.

The rest of the half turned into a 3-point shootout worthy of NBA All-Star weekend, and the Wildcats closed to 42-39 at the half. The Wildcats, who lost players from the title team to the NBA, could never really shake the Explorers until the waning moments.

"We had the great confidence that over the last few years that we were eventually going to wear people down," Wright said. "Well, none of those guys are on this team, so that confidence isn't there."

That puts more responsibility on championship holdovers Booth and Paschall.

"We know how coach thinks. Whenever coach tells us something, we try to teach it to the younger guys as quick as possible," Paschall said.

Traci Carter's 3 pulled the Explorers to 69-66 and they got it within one with 5:24 left. Miles Brookins lobbed a lazy pass into the middle that was picked off by Saddiq Bey and converted into a three-point play by Booth. Paschall sucked the air out of La Salle fans with a dunk for a 78-72 lead.

Wright kept former assistant coach Ashley Howard winless in his first season on the bench at La Salle. Howard, who worked five seasons under Wright, was hired at La Salle just a week after the Wildcats won their second national championship in three seasons.

"These guys have no weaknesses because all these guys can shoot," Howard said.

The Explorers are forced to wonder how much better their upset odds would have improved had leading scorer Pookie Powell not sat out with an injury (lower body). Carter scored 17 and Deas had 15.

Big picture
Villanova: Wright made it 2-0 this season against the branches of his coaching tree. He also beat former assistant and current Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy in November.

La Salle: Also played without guard Cheddi Mosely (concussion) and forward Jared Kimbrough (foot). The Explorers made 11 of their first 15 shots in the second half.

Long distance
La Salle and Villanova each hit 12 3-pointers. Booth and Paschall each had three and Deas hit five.

Up next
Villanova continues its city series games on Wednesday against Temple and Saturday against Saint Joseph's.

La Salle has a busy week with games Tuesday against Bucknell and Saturday against Penn.