Big week in Big East for 'Nova
Also: Records set, top-notch performances and more upsets
Not a lot of teams get the opportunity to play two top-five teams in the same week.
Villanova took the opportunity and ran with it last week, upending No. 5 Louisville 73-64 on Tuesday and following it up with a 75-71 overtime victory against No. 3 Syracuse on Saturday.
The feat of beating two top-five teams in back-to-back games is something not even the Wildcats’ 1985 NCAA Championship and 2009 Final Four squads could achieve during the regular season. In fact, it is only the second time in school history Villanova has won consecutive games against top-five opponents. The 1985 squad’s victories against No. 5 Memphis in the NCAA semifinals and No. 1 Georgetown in the national championship game was the only other time the Wildcats have done it.
“What a week for us,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said.
The fans not only got to rush the court once, but twice, last week at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, while the Wildcats moved into a five-way tie for fifth place in the Big East Conference with a 4-3 mark. Villanova, which is 13-7 overall, is tied with No. 21 Cincinnati, Louisville, Georgetown and No. 24 Notre Dame, the latter of which the Wildcats will visit on Wednesday night.
“It’s starting to create a level of consistency for us, a high level of consistency,” Wright said. “Which to be a good team in this league you have to have. You’re still going to lose games, you know I thought Louisville played really well and they come in here and lose a game ... I thought Syracuse played extremely well and they lose a game.”
Consistency will be key for the Villanova, which has had six of its seven losses come during three-game losing streaks. In November, the Wildcats dropped consecutive non-conference games to Alabama, Columbia and La Salle. It was the first time since 1985 that Columbia defeated a Big East team. A losing stretch also preceded the two top-five victories as Villanova fell to Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Providence in a week’s time.
“In this league, you’re going to play at a high level of consistency, and you’re still going to lose a game, but if you’re not playing at a high level of consistency, you’re going to lose a lot of games,” Wright said. “And this is what we’re starting to get to. This doesn’t mean we’re going run off every game. This just means we have a good chance to be a good team in this league.”
Prior to last week, it had been exactly two years since Villanova had beaten any ranked team. The Wildcats are 2-1 versus ranked opponents, with the loss coming to then-No. 6 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Jan.12.
• The South Carolina women’s basketball team has been winning with great defensive play all year, and this week was no different. First, the No. 18 Gamecocks upended No. 5 Kentucky on Thursday, 55-50, earning the program’s highest-ranked victory since 1998. Then on Sunday, South Carolina stifled Arkansas in a 43-40 victory, giving the Gamecocks their fourth consecutive league win and best Southeastern Conference start (6-2) since 2001-02. The Gamecocks have allowed more than 60 points just once this season, and are averaging a 47.3 scoring defense, which ranked third in the nation entering last week.
• Senior Syque Caesar earned an NCAA-record score of 15.90 on the parallel bars as No. 3 Michigan opened its home schedule with an upset of No. 2 Stanford 439.75-429.24 on Saturday. Caesar’s score eclipsed the previous mark of 15.85 set on April 5, 2008, by California’s Tim McNeill. In addition, Michigan sophomore Adrian de los Angeles posted an 89.200 all-around score in the meet -- the 11th highest in NCAA history.
• One of the biggest rivalries in collegiate wrestling lived up to the billing as No. 4 Iowa claimed a 16-15 victory against No. 3 Minnesota in Minneapolis on Saturday. The two squads were tied 15-15 after splitting 10 bouts, but the Hawkeyes earn the deciding team point base on the advantage of match points to break the tie. Iowa outscored the Gophers 41-33 in match points in the dual. Iowa’s 125-pound top-ranked wrestler, Matt McDonough, earned a 6-3 decision against No. 13 David Thorn to stretch his winning streak to 41 matches.
• Four of the top five Division I men’s hockey teams lost at least once during the weekend. No. 1 Minnesota split a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series with No. 14 Minnesota State, falling 2-1 on Friday before rebounding for a victory Saturday. No. 3 Boston College was swept by a Maine team which entered the weekend with a 5-14-4 mark. No. 4 New Hampshire lost to Merrimack on Friday in Hockey East play, but the Wildcats returned with a vengeance the next day to grab a 6-2 victory and series split. No. 5 North Dakota went down to surging St. Cloud State on Friday and then managed a tie against the 16th-ranked Saints on Saturday. No. 2 Quinnipiac, which is riding an NCAA-best 17-game unbeaten streak, was off for the weekend.
• No. 6 UW-Eau Claire nabbed an important 3-0 defeat of No. 2 St. Norbert on Friday to move into first place in Division III’s Northern Collegiate Hockey Association standings. It was only the second time in series history the Blugolds shutout St. Norbert. After earning a shutout against the Green Knights on Friday, UW-Eau Claire senior goalie Brandon Stephenson tallied 21saves in a 3-2 win against UW-Stevens Point the next night, tying the school record for career wins with 40.
• The No. 12 Minnesota women’s gymnastics team pulled off an impressive upset of No. 1 Michigan on Saturday in a quad meet with No. 20 Central Michigan and Iowa State. The Gophers scored a 196.800 -- the program’s highest score since 2004 -- to edge the Wolverines (196.775) by 0.025 of a point. It was Minnesota’s first victory against a No. 1-ranked team.
• The Hawaii men’s volleyball team pulled off a major upset Friday, defeating No. 2 Pepperdine in a five-set Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match. The Warriors ended a 12-match MPSF losing streak with the win. On Sunday, the Warriors completed the weekend sweep of the Waves with a 3-0 victory. It was the Warriors’ third consecutive home victory against a top-five team. Two weeks ago, Hawaii upended then-No. 5 UCLA in a non-conference match at the Outrigger Invitational.
|THE DIGIT||THE 4-1-1|
||No. 1 Metro State is off to the best start in men’s basketball program history after downing Colorado Mesa and Western State Colorado during the weekend to improve to 17-0 and 13-0 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play. The Roadrunners and defending NCAA Division II champion and second-ranked Western Washington are the only unbeaten teams remaining in Division II men’s basketball.|
|34||The No. 1 Minnesota women’s hockey team stretched its NCAA-record unbeaten streak to 34 games with a 5-1 victory against No. 8 Wisconsin on Sunday. The Gophers gained sole possession of the record with a win against the Badgers on Friday night, bettering a mark the Wisconsin program has achieved twice. The sweep was Minnesota’s first of the Badgers since the 1999-2000 season.|
|118||The Wheaton (Ill.) women’s basketball team tallied the most points in a single game in school history, downing North Central 118-78 in a Division III game Saturday. The Thunder also established a school record for points in a half with 78, as well as establishing marks for field goals in a game (46) and assists (34).|
|197.65||The Florida women’s gymnastics team notched a 197.65 score to beat Auburn on Friday night. The Gators’ season-high score is the top score in the nation in 2013. The performance propelled the Gators back into the No. 1 spot on Monday.|
|665||Baylor’s Brittney Griner became the NCAA career leader for blocked shots as she swatted eight in the No. 1 Lady Bear’s 82-65 victory against No. 20 Oklahoma on Saturday. It was Baylor’s 50th consecutive home win. Griner eclipsed Louella Tomilinson (2007-11) of Saint Mary’s (Calif.) for the mark, and currently has 665 all-time blocks.|
|700||Emmanuel (Mass.) women’s basketball coach Andy Yosinoff claimed his 700th career victory Saturday with a 76-49 defeat of Lasell College. Yosinoff is only the third Division III women’s basketball coach to reach the milestone, joining Scranton’s Mike Strong (782) and former St. John Fisher coach Phil Kahler (757). He has compiled a 700-230 record in 36 years at Emmanuel.|
• The No. 2 Bentley University women’s basketball team stretched its winning streak against Division II East Region opponents to 30 games with a 75-66 defeat of New Haven in Northeast-10 conference play Saturday. For the third consecutive game, the Falcons had to overcome a double-digit deficit to remain unbeaten at 17-0.
• The No. 9 Williams College men’s basketball team handed No. 3 Middlebury its’ first defeat of the season, upending the Panthers 60-52 in New England Small College Athletic Conference play Saturday. With No. 1 St. Thomas losing to Concordia (Minn.) on Jan. 21, that leaves only No. 2 Rochester and No. 6 WPI on the unbeaten list in Division III men’s basketball.
• Senior forward Makenzie Brandon was on fire Friday, scoring 54 points in Occidental’s 115-105 win at La Verne. It was just seven points shy of the NCAA Division III women’s basketball single-game scoring record of 61 points set by Oberlin’s Ann Gilbert in 1991. Interestingly, Oxy could not keep up the frenetic scoring pact the next day against Chapman, falling 58-56, but Brandon did not disappoint, notching a double-double of 19 points and 18 rebounds in the contest.
• The Quinnipiac women’s basketball team is off to its best start with a 16-2 overall record following a convincing 66-39 win against Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday. The Bobcats stand on top of the Northeast Conference with a 7-0 league mark.
• The No. 17 Dayton women’s basketball team is 5-0 in Atlantic 10 play for the first time after defeating Massachusetts 83-44 on Sunday. The Flyers (17-1) are one of only five teams in Division I women’s basketball with one loss -- the others are No. 1 Baylor, No. 2 Connecticut, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Duke. Dayton is averaging a plus-36.7 scoring margin in conference games.
• No. 2 Oklahoma scored a 197.275 to win the Metroplex Challenge, topping three other ranked teams in the five-team field at the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena. The Sooners outperformed No. 7 LSU (197.100), No. 16 Oregon State (196.825), No. 9 Georgia (196.775) and Washington (194.875) for the victory. Lauren Alexander won the beam with a 9.975 -- a career high and highest beam score by a Sooners gymnast this season.
• In Division II basketball, both the Western Washington men’s and women’s squads finished the first half of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference season with 9-0 records -- the first time two teams from the same school has accomplished the feat. On the men’s side, it is only the second time in the past 12 years a GNAC team has gone 9-0 through the first half of play. The WWU men’s team is the defending NCAA champion, and has started the season with an 18-0 record. The No. 2 Vikings also are in the midst of a conference-record 24-game winning streak dating to last season. The women’s team is ranked No. 5 in the latest poll, and has compiled a 15-2 record on the year.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy