GAME NOTES: With a trip to the "Sweet 16" on the line, the Villanova Wildcats will battle the Saint Mary's-CA Gaels in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament from the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
The Gaels collected their first NCAA Tournament victory in 51 years when they defeated Richmond, 80-71, in the first round on Thursday. It was just the second victory for the Gaels in the Big Dance, as the team is now 2-5 all-time in this event. Saint Mary's earned a spot in its sixth NCAA Tournament by posting a 26-5 mark during the season, while also claiming the West Coast Conference Tournament title.
The Wildcats had a bit of a scare in the first round, but the team was eventually able to get past Robert Morris in overtime, 73-70. It was the third straight year Villanova has won its first round game, and the team is now an impressive 49-30 all-time in this event. The Wildcats earned the second seed in the South Region by entering the tournament with a 24-7 ledger, and that is the highest seed for the Wildcats since the 2005-06 campaign when the team earned a top seed in the Big Dance.
This will be the third-ever meeting between the two schools on the hardwood. The Gaels grabbed a 65-64 decision over Villanova in the first matchup, but the Wildcats retaliated with an 89-78 victory over Saint Mary's in the second meeting.
The winner of this contest will move into the "Sweet 16" where they will battle either Old Dominion or Baylor.
The Gaels were simply too much for Richmond in their first round matchup, as Saint Mary's dominated play in the paint, en route to the nine-point win over the Spiders. Saint Mary's controlled the play on the boards in the matchup, outrebounding Richmond by a whopping 40-17 margin. Omar Samhan had his way, as the center posted a double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds for the Gaels, who as a team shot 49.1 percent from the floor and also connected on 20-of-28 attempts from the foul line. Mickey McConnell added 23 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Clint Steindl tallied 11 points. Throughout the season Saint Mary's has relied on the play of Samhan, who is currently averaging a double-double of 21.2 ppg and 11.0 rpg. McConnell is contributing 14.0 ppg and a team-best 169 assists, while Matthew Dellavedova is posting 12.3 ppg, to go along with 144 assists.
It was not pretty, but the Wildcats somehow clawed their way to an overtime victory over Robert Morris in the first round. Villanova was supposed to breeze past the Colonials, but the team was ice cold from the floor, connecting on just 35.3 percent of its field goal attempts, including just 6- of-22 shots from behind the arc. However, the Wildcats were bailed out by their success at the foul line, as Villanova made 31-of-40 shots at the charity stripe. Scottie Reynolds only made 2-of-15 of his shots in the matchup, but the guard still managed to finish with 20 points, thanks to a 15- of-16 clip from the foul line. Mouphtaou Yarou added 17 points and eight rebounds, while Taylor King tallied 10 points off the bench. Despite the poor shooting effort against Richmond, Reynolds is still leading the way for Villanova, as the guard is posting 18.6 ppg, to go along with 105 assists. Corey Fisher is contributing 13.5 ppg and a team-best 127 assists, while Antonio Pena is chipping in 10.6 ppg, to go along with a team-best 7.2 rpg.
The Wildcats were not at their best Thursday, and if they plan on remaining in this tournament, the team will have to put forth a much better showing against Saint Mary's. The Gaels will likely look for Samhan to lead the way again, but the Wildcats should be able to ride Reynolds and Fisher into the Sweet 16.