Ray scores 19 in return as 'Nova downs pesky Monmouth

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Villanova had the No. 1 seed, the home-court
advantage, and a resume that has them unquestionably among the
nation's elite.

None of that seemed to faze unheralded Monmouth.

Pushed by a pesky Monmouth team aiming to pull off an
unprecedented upset, the top-seeded Wildcats prevailed and beat the
Hawks 58-45 Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"We knew about Monmouth, we knew they were a very good team,"
Wildcats guard Allan Ray said. "We definitely didn't underestimate

With a crowd that seemed to abandon the Wildcats (26-4), along
with their accurate shooting and smart decision making, Villanova
looked nothing like the team that shared the Big East title with

Still, Ray returned from a scary eye injury to score 19 points,
Randy Foye added 17 points and the Wildcats advanced to play
eighth-seeded Arizona on Sunday in the Minneapolis Regional.

The 16th-seeded Hawks (19-15) hardly looked intimidated playing
on Villanova's home turf. Monmouth never let Villanova make a
serious run and benefited from the Wildcats constantly jacking up
quick shots down the stretch.

The arena was packed, though it seemed more fans came in their
Irish green than Villanova blue. Without that decided home-court
advantage, the neutral fans started pulling for the underdog Hawks.
Monmouth kept the game competitive and gave their newfound fans a
reason to cheer.

"It was a nice atmosphere," Hawks coach Dave Calloway said.
"It was nice we had a chance."

The Hawks, who beat Hampton in the play-in game for their first
NCAA tourney win, gave everything they could trying to pull off the
first 16-over-1 upset. Dejan Delic led the way for Monmouth, the
Northeast Conference champions, in the second half.

He scored nine straight points, including a 3-pointer from the
right corner with 6:22 left that made it 47-40.

"We thought we had a chance," said Tyler Azzarelli, who had 11
points. "At that moment, we all kind of looked at each other in
unspoken words and said we could do this."

Then the crowd really rallied behind Monmouth, wishing, perhaps,
to say they were there for that historic upset.

"What happened?" Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I thought
this was a home game for us and all of a sudden when they cut it to
seven, that shocked me. Where did all those people come from?"

By the end, Villanova was wondering where those Hawks came from.

"We knew they weren't done," Foye said. "Coach told us to get
a great attitude, keep on them with defense and the offense will

The Hawks, weren't finished, yet. Delic, who scored 17 points,
calmly made two free throws with 3:52 to go that kept the deficit
at 10. Only then did they start to fade, scoring only three more

"We did hang around, but we didn't make plays down the
stretch," Azzarelli said. "We needed a stop, a couple of scores.
We didn't get them and the game kind of rolled away from that."

Kyle Lowry sank six free throws in the final minutes and Foye
hit a runner in the lane to keep the Wildcats unbeaten at their
off-campus home, the Wachovia Center. They improved to 4-0 there
this season, but will need to shoot better than 31 percent if they
want to make it 5-0 against Arizona on Sunday.

"You have to be prepared to have an off-shooting night and
still win," Wright said. "We could have hit two or three more 3s
and everyone would have said we blew them out."

Villanova, the 1985 national champions, tied the program's
record with its 26th win.

Ray returned and played well after he suffered a soft tissue
injury in the Big East tournament that sent him to the hospital.
His right eye was slightly reddened, but he played without goggles
and didn't appear to experience any discomfort.

"I came into the game feeling regular, like it didn't even
happen," Ray said.

Taking advantage of one of Villanova's worst shooting efforts of
the season, the Hawks trailed by only eight early in the second
half after Marques Alston sank a 3-pointer.

They were able to keep it close because Villanova could never
deliver an explosive, decisive blow.

For a team that's delivered 20-point bursts in several minutes,
Villanova was simply awful for most of the first half. The Wildcats
missed 12 of 16 shots to start and the 3-point shooting that has
carried them most of the season began only 1-for-7.

The good news for the Wildcats was Monmouth wasn't any better.
The Hawks missed their first 12 shots, in nearly every variety.
There were airballs, in-and-outs, and plenty off the front of the

Finally, Villanova mustered two 3-pointers from Ray and one from
Foye to lead 27-16 at halftime.