No. 6/6 Men's Basketball tops No. 15/12 Villanova, 67-58
Dec. 9, 2008
NEW YORK (AP) -- There was no doubt there would be plenty of defense when Texas and Villanova met in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night.
Both teams played the style they like, only No. 6 Texas did a bit better in a 67-58 victory over the 15th-ranked Wildcats.
"There was nothing to be had. You were fighting and struggling for everything you got," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "Our team's got some answers. We can play a lot of different ways. Everybody made a contribution. One thing I know, and we talk about it, is that this team has the makings of being the best defensive team we've had at Texas. We don't have to score a lot. This team is taking on its own identity."
Abrams, who had 18 points in the second half, and James combined to score 16 straight points for Texas (7-1) when it pulled away to a double-digit lead late in the second half.
"It was just that time of the game," Abrams said. "Me and Damion know we need to step up and our teammates know to get the ball in our hands in certain situations."
Villanova (8-1) had pulled to 41-38 with 10:54 to play on a layup by Dante Cunningham, who led the Wildcats with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Abrams hit a 3-pointer on an inbounds play to make it 44-38 and he capped the 16-9 run by he and James with a 3-pointer with 5:27 left that made it 57-47 and Villanova was never closer than seven points the rest of the way. James also hit a 3 in the run.
The win was the second straight over a ranked team for Texas, which beat then-No. 12 UCLA 68-64 last week. The Longhorns lost then-No.8 Notre Dame 81-80 in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
"We've been in some grinds, and tonight was a grind, it really was," Barnes said. "Our defense has been really good. People have hard time scoring when we lock in and get our defense set."
The game was the first out of the Philadelphia area for the Wildcats, who had won all their games by at least 13 points.
"We have a lot of work to do. We need to play in these games and we will now against this type of physical defense," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "And we learned we have to rebound better as a team but we can be a good team."
Both teams came into the game allowing less than 57 points per game and they both kept up their solid defense. Texas shot 41.7 percent for the game (25-of-60), while the Wildcats shot 38 percent (19-for-50), including 4-of-18 from 3-point range, and committed 19 turnovers, six more than the Longhorns.
"I was very impressed with Texas. I like their overall team defense toughness, aggressiveness on the glass. It's something we take pride in and obviously they're ahead of us at that right now," Wright said. "They really pressured our guards well and they did it with depth. We didn't take care of the basketball and their pressure forced into playing too fast."
Abrams was coming off a career-high 31 points against UCLA and James had 13 points and 13 rebounds in that game.
No. 23 Davidson beat West Virginia 68-63 in the opening game of the doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.
"Everybody dreams of playing in the prime-time game at Madison Square Garden," Abrams said. "It was pro-Villanova but we knew that. When you can play at Madison Square Garden you just don't care who's in the stands just so someone is there to watch you."
On A.J. Abrams: A.J. has always been kind of under the radar. A.J. has had really, a tremendous career at Texas. He played valuable minutes as a freshman. Sophomore, he was behind the National Player of the Year (Kevin Durant). The recruiting class was one of the tops in the country. He had a phenomenal year with D.J (Augustin). Still, A.J. has quietly gone about his business. I have said before many times, he is the smartest basketball player we have ever coached. He really knows how to play. He has great feel. He understands the game. He created a lot of offense tonight even when he didn't shoot the ball. He draws so much attention, if the guys who set the screen would just get ready, they would get so much more. He has great stamina. He is cold blooded. He really is. He has had a great career.
On the team's defense: We are just getting started. We had a grind against Notre Dame, a grind against UCLA and tonight was a grind. Our defense has been really good. We have really defended people. People have a hard time scoring when we lock in and get our defense set. Where we have hurt ourselves is just our offense. We are still searching here. We have some different ways we can play.
On the program: We have good players, they work hard. We have a good infrastructure where we work, players work. It is pleasing when I look at our team. They work, they come in. They get the credit for it because they bought into what we try to do. I just think we have good players.
TEXAS GUARD A.J. Abrams
On the schedule: I do think we play a tough schedule and it prepares us for our conference. When you play college basketball you want to play the best in the country. I think that is what our coaches did, they set up a schedule for us so we can find out where we are at as a team and we are responding real well to it right now.
On the team's status: We lost to Notre Dame, we beat UCLA, we beat Villanova, it was a big win today. I still think there are some things we need to get better at. We weren't rebounding the ball as good as we should have today. We can always get better on the defensive end. As far as offense, we can always be more efficient to get better shots and work it inside more.
On a Final Four run: I think we have the ability to be the best defensive team. In years past, the games we lost we didn't have defensive stops. The Final Four is a long ways away. We have a lot of things to work on before we can worry about that. If we consistently get better on a day-to-day basis and practice, mentally and physically we should be a pretty good team at the end of the season.
On the team prepared to play defense: I think it is because of our coaching staff. Coach (Rick) Barnes does a great job preparing us in the off-season, getting us ready for defense. You can't play for him if you don't play defense. I think everybody has bought into that. Everybody's main focus is defense. I think, at times, our offense lacks, but we are also getting better at that. If we continue to play defense, and we get better at rebounding, we will be fine.
On working on defense during the off-season: Our strength coach, Coach Todd (Wright) gets us ready for the wear and tear for the long season. Working with him and (just) talking with Coach (Rick) Barnes. If you want to go out there and play, he always says you have to play defense. Just getting that in your mindset early on gets you prepared for the season.
On playing in Madison Square Garden: Everybody dreams about playing in Madison Square Garden. The 9 o'clock game, the primetime game. It was a great atmosphere. It was kind of pro-Villanova but we knew that. Anytime you can play in the Garden, you don't care who is in the stands as long as someone is there to watch it.
On what his team learned from tonight's game: We've got a lot of work to do. We need to play in these games and we will now. We need to play against this type of physical defense and be able to take care of the basketball and still make plays. I think that's what we learned. I also think we have to rebound better as a team. But we can be a good team.
On play of Dante Cunningham: Dante has really developed into a confident scorer. We need to find more ways of getting him the ball.
On Texas' defense: We played a tough game against Niagara and Rhode Island. I think it was more Texas. Texas has a physical defense and good discipline. I think you have to give Rick Barnes credit for that. (They have) real good discipline defensively that we just haven't seen yet. We haven't faced that. They remind me of some of the top teams in the BIG EAST, defensively. I think that's where we're going to be able to learn from this game.
On Villanova's defense: I thought it was inconsistent. I thought there were times when we made substitutions that we just lost our intensity. I thought sometimes we played too small; we didn't play with enough toughness. And we didn't rebound well enough against a team that's just very good at that. Against some teams you can get away with that, but this team is just relentless on the glass. I give them a lot of credit for some of the things that we're talking about that are our weaknesses.
GUARD SCOTTIE REYNOLDS
FORWARD DANTE CUNNINGHAM
On what Villanova needs to improve upon: We just need to rebound. We need to hit the boards a lot harder. They're a tough rebounding team; their guards were getting six or seven rebounds also. As a team we just need to hit the boards a lot harder.