Facing the #26th ranked (FIBA) Israel National Team to open the Euro Jam Tournament in Almere, Netherlands, Villanova ran out to an early 56-45 lead at the half, hung on to close out the Israelis 94-92 and snap an eight game losing streak dating back to February 21 last. The 'Cats were paced by rising junior off guard Dominic Cheek's 34 points -- 24 of which he posted in the first two quarters -- on 15-19 shooting from the field. Classmates Mouphtaou Yarou (forward-center) recorded a double-double on 22 points and 12 rebounds. Villanova staunched an Israeli rally in the third quarter to take a one point, 73-72 into the last quarter.
Yarou made a crucial basket with 4:50 left in the game to knot the score at 82 and then an and-one to put Villanova back on top. The Israelis came back to score two at the free throw line that forced Villanova Coach Jay Wright to bring rising junior point guard Maalik Wayns back into the game carrying four fouls. Down by one Cheek rose to the occasion with a strong drive to the basket that put the 'Cats back on top by one and earned the guard an and-one opportunity. With the lead going back and forth freshman Jayvaughn Pinkston hit a basket that put Villanova back on top by two 89-87, with 1:29 left in the game. The 'Cats added two more to stretch the lead to four with just over a half minute left to play, and the Israelis resorted to threes and fouls to stay in the game. No doubt fighting memories of games with Rutgers, DePaul and South Florida from their 2011 season-ending struggles, Villanova's young squad stepped up and maintained a two-to-three point cushion through the last possession. An Israeli three point attempt at the buzzer failed and Villanova breaks on top of the Euro Jam field 1-0.
I will post links to recaps and (hopefully) a boxscore as they become available.
The Wildcats will face off against the Netherlands National Team Saturday at 2:00 pm Eastern time.
(h/t to Mike Sheridan's account, via twitter, of the game)