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Villanova-Louisville Preview

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Tonight’s semifinal game between Villanova and Louisville will give the Wildcats something they have yearned for since their 61-60 loss to the Cardinals on Jan. 10 – a second chance.

In their first meeting, Villanova led 58-57 with 3:13 remaining in the game.  After that point, the Wildcats went two for six from the free throw line and did not make a single field goal attempt.  This included two missed free throws and two missed shots in the final five seconds of the game.

However, the loss has been viewed by Head Coach Jay Wright as a turning point in the season.

“I thought that was a really big point for us,” said Wright. “The Louisville loss was a tough one. It was at home and we felt like we had a shot to win it. It was early in the season and we knew we didn’t want to get down like that where you spend so much energy trying to dig out of the hole. 

“The way our guys responded to that game gave us hope that whatever we dealt with this season, we were going to be able to handle it. That’s a tribute to our seniors – Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Frank Tchuisi. They kept us focused on the next possession and the next game.”

Following their meeting, both teams had a very strong finish to their respective conference seasons.  Louisville went 15-2 over their final 17 regular season games while Villanova went 13-3 in theirs.  The strong finishes allowed each team to secure a double-bye in the Big East Tournament.

In its first game, Louisville cruised by Providence 73-55.  However, the Cardinals looked sloppy and disorganized at times which led to 20 turnovers.  It was the most they had committed since Jan. 31, when they had 26 against West Virginia.

Villanova escaped with a 76-75 victory in its first game on a Dwayne Anderson layup as time expired.  Although, the team is very happy to move on, few positives can be taken away from the game besides the win itself.  The Wildcats blew a 17-point halftime lead, and their leading scorer, Dante Cunningham, only finished with seven points.

For the Wildcats to win, they must be able to handle the Louisville press.  It is the signature of the Cardinals’ defense and has given even the best teams fits all season.  Villanova did a good job against the full court presses of Providence and Marquette but neither are as strong as Louisville’s.

Although it seems obvious, Louisville must shoot well to advance to the Big East Championship.  Overall, they are not the strongest shooting team in the conference, finishing eighth with a field goal percentage of 45 percent and ninth in scoring at 74.1 points per game.  On the season, Louisville has not lost a game in which it has scored at least 65 points.

The winner of the game advances to the Big East Championship tomorrow night.  Villanova last appeared in the game in 1997, when it lost to Boston College 70-58.  Louisville has never been to the title game, and a win would make them the first team from the 2006 league expansion to reach the final.

-David Cassilo

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