VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) -- Villanova coach Jay Wright makes no
apologies for padding his team's non-conference schedule with
lightweights. Turned out, the first ranked opponent the Wildcats
played was the easiest win so far.
"It kind of gives them a feeling of what we can be," Wright
said. "I don't think they're shocked, but I think they're feeling
real good about it."
"This was a big step for our team," Nardi said. "We're really
trying to build something here."
Villanova (8-1) took some knocks for winning games over teams
like Albany, Fordham and Monmouth -- all without leaving the
Philadelphia area -- but dominated in the Big East opener against
West Virginia (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today; No. 21 AP).
Villanova broke the game open with nifty passing and stifling
defense during a 14-0 run late in the first half, including the
final eight points scored by Sumpter. Ray and Nardi opened the run
with consecutive 3-pointers.
The Wildcats shot 42 percent from 3-point range and 54 percent
from the floor overall.
"When you make shots like that, you can beat a lot of people,"
West Virginia looked little like a team averaging 76.9 points
and shooting 50 percent from the floor this season. The
Mountaineers scored only 18 points and shot 21 percent in the first
West Virginia also averaged only 9.6 turnovers a game, but had
10 in the first half, including three on its first three
The Wildcats mixed up their defense quite a bit in the first
half, seemingly switching from man to zone on alternate
possessions. The 46 points were the fewest ever allowed by
Villanova in a conference game, breaking the mark of 48 allowed
against Pittsburgh in 1983.
"Our pressure really bothered them," Ray said. "They couldn't
do any up-and-down running."
Wins over then-No. 17 North Carolina State and No. 20 George
Washington propelled West Virginia into its first appearance in The
Associated Press' Top 25 since March 1998, which was the last year
the Mountaineers reached the NCAA Tournament.
"We're certainly not a juggernaut of a 10-0 team and we proved
that today," coach John Beilein said.
The Mountaineers lost point guard J.D. Collins to an ankle
injury with 7:25 left in the first half and trailing by nine. West
Virginia looked lost once he left, never able to do much of
The Mountaineers were off to their best start since winning
their first 10 games of the 1959-60 season when Jerry West played
for them. The 1957-58 team started 14-0.
Villanova had plenty of skeptics with a soft schedule. It played
six games at home and two others at the nearby Palestra. Bigger
tests await the Wildcats this month, including games at Notre Dame
and Providence and their final non-conference against No. 2 Kansas
Villanova's last win against a ranked team came against No. 20
Providence in last year's Big East tournament.