Wachovia Center, Day 3

by March 22, 2009

by Aaron Kaplowitz

Playing at their home away from home, the Villanova Wildcats treated their fans to an impressive 89-69 victory over UCLA to advance to the Sweet 16, ending Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya’s run as the winningest class in UCLA history.

In case you missed the game, that stats tell enough of the story:

– Villanova attempted 20 more field goals than UCLA.
– Villanova grabbed 16 offensive rebounds.
– UCLA turned the ball over 20 times.
– Even Collison, the nation’s most accurate free throw shooter missed three free throws. He missed only 10 all year.
– Villanova scored 46 points in the paint.

“Tonight we definitely played 40 minutes of Villanova basketball,” Dante Cunningham said.

If Villanova continues to play its brand of basketball, the Sweet 16 will just be another step along the way. The Wildcats dominated in the paint, set the tone on the glass and punished the Bruins for their mistakes.

If the game had to be summed up by one play, it would be Dwayne Anderson’s all-out defensive effort with 4:43 to play. Collison hauled in a rebound and got out on the break. He neared the Villanova three-point line when Anderson, sprinting from behind, dove head-first at the ball and knocked it out of Collison’s hand. Villanova was leading by 22 at that point.

“I’m disappointed that this is our last game of the year,” said UCLA coach Ben Howland. “It’s not the way we would like to have gone out.”

Following the UCLA game, the University of Connecticut welcomed head coach Jim Calhoun back from the hospital with a convincing 92-66 win over Texas A&M. A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien combined for 50 points to lead the Huskies who appear to be peaking at just the right time.

“For anyone to question our No. 1 seed, I think wA.J. Pricee answered those questions by playing hard and showing people that we can beat good teams,” Price said. “It wasn’t our goal to come in and try to blow teams out or show anybody up. We just wanted to come out and play as best as we could play, and we’ve done that these first two games.”

The way UConn took care of business in Philly, the team should like its chances next week against Purdue.

Day 3 over. Next stop: Boston.


— American University gave Villanova a necessary wakeup call. The urgency with which the Wildcats played last year as the underdog returned to Jay Wright’s squad on Saturday.

— Collison is one of the country’s top defenders. He moves his feet well and has great instincts. With his reliable ball-handling skills his basketball career in America is far from over. He’s also a capable scorer.

— ‘Nova sixth man Corey Fisher hit three incredibly difficult, contact-filled layups. His contributions off the bench may determine how far the Wildcats go.

— UCLA take note: You’re not going to win many games in which you give up 89 points.

— I’m happy for Jason Colenda. During last year’s Tourney I wrote an article for USA Today about end-of-the-bench players at top schools. I asked Colenda why he chose to walk on to the Villanova team when he probably could have starred at a mid-major. He told me: “I know if I made different choices, I could be in other places, maybe having my shining moment, having my name on ESPN. But it’s not about that for me. I love it, because I got a great group of guys who care about each other. That’s as gratifying, having that team connection, as getting the opportunity to hit the shot of a lifetime.” With under 30 seconds to play, he hit two free throws – his first points in a Villanova uniform – to hit the shots of a lifetime.

— Stanley Robinson has serious hops. His ability to play above the rim must be a serious distraction to the Huskies’ opponents.

— It’s scary to think how good Connecticut would be with Jerome Dyson. His teammates estimated that with him in the lineup, they probably would have posted more than 130 points against Chattanooga. Jerome, thanks for keeping the playing field more level.

— Before entering the court, Connecticut’s pre-game ritual is awesome. They huddle around Jeff Adrien who riles them up by slapping at a basketball and conducting repetitive whoops, screams and chants. They finish in unison with “Husk-iiiiiies!” On his approach to the ritual, Adrien, the team’s most boisterous personality, explained that he just makes a lot of noises that you would otherwise not know existed.

Read more from on his website, AaronKaplowitz.wordpress.com.