Everything about The Palestra was great except the final score.
Villanova 64 – Towson 47
I’ll have video up from my night at the historic sports arena on the campus UPenn at some point in the next day or two. You’ll get an inside look at how the Tigers prepared for the game and, from my seat five feet behind Pat Kennedy, you’ll HEAR an account of life on the bench.
The final score was symbolic of what the game represented. Villanova – a team that has been to four straight NCAA tounaments and is currently #23 in the nation with four McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster – and Towson, yards better than last year but still looking for its identity with three transfers and a freshman point guard who had his troubles on Friday night.
It was a game for a while.
Towson hung tough in the first half and closed the gap to 27-26 with about three minutes to play in the opening 20 minutes thanks to an inspired effort from Junior Hairston. Towson started the game with Mt. Carmel product Troy Franklin, but he picked up his 3rd foul with 12 minutes gone in the game and Pat Kennedy turned to Richmond transfer Brian Morris to run the point – and he did so with great effectiveness as Towson outscored ‘Nova 11-4 to get right back in the game.
Dante Cunnigham – who was a beast on the defensive end – was so incensed with Towson’s run that he yelled at his Wildcat teammates, “HAVE SOME PRIDE, DAMMIT!!” as the players made their way to the Villanova bench after a Jay Wright timeout.
Towson was down 30-28 and had a good look for a game-tying two pointer in the final seconds of the first half but the ball took a crazy bounce off the rim and Villanova came up with the loose ball and a frantic shot by Scottie Reynolds at the buzzer was good for three as the Wildcats extended their margin to five at the half.
It’s hard to say that one shot – one 3-pointer – could have been the difference in the game, but that bucket at the end of the first stanza lifted ‘Nova’s spirits and sunk Towson’s at the same time.
A different Tigers’ team showed up to start the second half. Towson didn’t score a basket from the field for nine minutes to start the final 20 minutes and by then, it was 44-32 in favor of Villanova. From there, baskets were traded until the final whistle and a 64-47 loss for the Tigers.
All in all, though, Pat Kennedy and his staff have plenty of good to take from the game. In fact, virtually every player executed something well during the night. Unfortunately, Kennedy and his staff have plenty of not-so-good to point out as well. That’s what coaching is all about. Making your players better.
Towson has a great chance tonight for a marquee win as they take on Penn State at 6:30pm. Prior to last night’s loss to Rhode Island, the Nittany Lions were undefeated at 4-0.
The Tigers travel to UMBC on Wednesday night for a 7:05pm battle with the Retrievers. It’s “WNST Night” at the RAC. You can download a $4.00 off ticket coupon at www.wnst.net and redeem it at the box office on Wednesday for what should be a great local college basketball game.
I won’t be rooting for either team on Wednesday.
I’ll be happy either way.