Cardinals struggle in Big East, lose to Wildcats

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- There was one thing everybody wanted to talk
about after No. 4 Villanova's 79-73 victory over Louisville on
Monday night.

It wasn't that the win let the Wildcats match their best start
in the Big East. It wasn't that the loss dropped the Cardinals to
an almost unimaginable 2-6 in their first season in the conference.

The topic of conversation was a six-minute stretch in the first
half when 3-pointers were as abundant in the Wachovia Center as
mustard-covered pretzels.

"It was fun for us. For Louisville to be hitting 3s like that,
it wasn't that fun," said Allan Ray, who matched his season high
with 26 points. "For us to be hitting it, it felt pretty good.
Coming down on the other end and giving it up was kind of a bad
feeling right there."

In a 3 spree that would be hard to match if there was no defense
being played, both teams hit nothing but 3-pointers for a span of
5:54 in the first half.

Villanova made seven 3s and the Cardinals had five in the long
ball run and nine of the shots accounted for a lead change.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, one of the best in using the
3-pointer to his team's advantage since the line was set at 19
feet, nine inches for the 1986-87 season, said "not really" when
asked if he could remember a back-and-forth long-range shootout for
that long a span.

"They get up so high on their 3s and they spread you," Pitino
said of Villanova. "Jay makes a mockery of everything I try to do
statistically against the 3-point shot."

Villanova coach Jay Wright seemed disappointed and impressed
with his team's game.

"We're pretty defensive-minded and when you look at
Louisville's shooting percentage and the 3s they hit, you feel
terrible about how you played," he said. "Then you look that we
had 14 3s and that's unbelievable. That was just an incredible
college basketball game with two outstanding offensive teams
drilling big shot after shot."

The Wildcats (16-2, 7-1) twice seemed to have control of the
game with a double-digit lead but the Cardinals (14-7, 2-6) pulled
close twice before losing for the fifth time in six games.

As usual, Villanova relied on its four guards for most of its
offense. Mike Nardi had 20 points, Randy Foye added 19, all but two
in the first half, and Kyle Lowry had eight. They came into the
game accounting for 79 percent of the Wildcats' points and the four
had all but five of the points in the 72-70, last-second win over
Notre Dame on Saturday.

"That's just what we do. That's how we play. That's our
system," Ray said. "Until somebody decides to stop us guards,
then we'll continue to do that. Once they do stop us or we have an
off night, we have guys that we can go inside too. A lot of people
don't think we have an inside game."

Villanova started 7-1 in the Big East in 1982-83.

Taquan Dean had 23 points and seven assists for Louisville,
which was ranked seventh in the preseason poll and reached as high
as No. 4 during the season but fell out of the Top 25 on Monday.

"When Taquan is playing we're a pretty good team," Pitino
said, referring to the three games Dean missed with a sprained
ankle. "We're young and we have a great future but I have to
instill that the future is now and not next year. If we play like
we did tonight we'll be all right."

Dean agreed.

"We'll be OK," he said. "We'll get the young guys going and
get this losing streak stopped."

Villanova had an 11-point lead in the first half that Louisville
cut to five at the half. The Wildcats again used the 3-pointer,
they finished with 14, to pull away to a 63-48 lead, but the
Cardinals chipped away by going inside and they got within 70-69
with 3:40 to play on a basket by David Padgett, who had 15 points.

Ray made two free throws and scored on a layup before Foye
scored on a putback with 1:45 left that made it 76-68.

Villanova finished 14-for-26 from 3-point range, while
Louisville was 12-of-23 in what started out like a long-range
shootout and became an old-fashioned inside game late.

Ray and Nardi each had five 3s, Nardi getting two of his -- and
three free throws when he was fouled in the act -- in the 13-0 run
that made it 63-48.

"I was just letting it fly. Every shot felt good, and it was
the right shot which made it feel even more comfortable," said
Nardi, who turned 21 on Monday. "I kind of got it going."

Dean was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc and the Cardinals shot 55.8
percent overall (29-for-52), a huge improvement over their
season-low 33.9 percent in Saturday's loss at Rutgers. They ended a
run in which they shot less than 40 percent in five straight games.

"Our guys did a great job tonight," Pitino said. "I was upset
at Rutgers because it was a slow tempo and we made mistakes at the

"We are not at all thinking negatively. The glass is more than
half full for us. We are staying positive with positive energy."