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Press Clippings: Nova vs. St. Mary's

Omar Samhan

Omar Samhan

Here are a few of the more interesting excerpts in the press about today's game against St. Mary's:


"Yet, it's hard to shake the bubbling feeling that all is not well at the Big East power Jay Wright built. The Wildcats have been spotty on and off the court for most of the last month. They stumbled to a 2-5 finish. The Wildcats -- most notably Reynolds -- shot poorly and needed overtime to get past mid-major Robert Morris in the first round."

"The Wildcats have the defense more appropriate for a team that couldn't make the CBI field. They have no consistent interior presence and allowed 72.9 points per game -- only Seton Hall and Providence were worse in the Big East. The Wildcats ranked 278th out of 334 Division I teams."

"I know we weren't favored to win, but apparently nobody expected us to win," Saint Mary's center Omar Samhan said. "I've had tons of e-mails and text messages, 'I can't believe you won, you messed up my bracket, but that's great.' "And that's from my mom."

"Saint Mary's, which won the West Coast Conference, has the mammoth frontline in the 6-foot-11 Samhan and 6-11 Ben Allen that could give the Wildcats fits. Samhan had 29 points and 12 rebounds despite spending most of the Richmond game in foul trouble. The Gaels know going inside is their best chance at pulling off the second straight tournament upset." 

"The taller Gaels beat undersized Richmond on Thursday - the first NCAA win for St. Mary's since 1959 - and match up today against a sputtering Villanova team that looks ripe for the picking."

"Don't look now, but this is also the kind of team that gives the Wildcats serious trouble. The Gaels have a great big man in 6-foot-11 Omar Samhan, with 6-11 forward Ben Allen standing right next to him. Both are seniors. While Villanova was encouraged by the play of freshman Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton in its opening win over Robert Morris, this tall order is a tall order."

"You've got a school from an unknown small town, with five Australians on the roster and a frontcourt star who is a Muslim at a small Catholic school. A neat story, but c'mon."

"We take pride in being a blue-collar team playing hard," Samhan said. "The measure you can't put on paper is how hard people want it, heart and determination. This team has a lot of it. We don't have guys who can jump 40 inches in the air, but we have guys who will dive face-first out of bounds to get a ball. So, that's why we are supposed to be here and we are a real team."

"Jay Wright indicated yesterday he's going to play Yarou and Sutton together at times to offset the height of St. Mary's. That's a perilous strategy, since it limits Villanova's offense in some ways and, to be honest, because the second round of the NCAA tournament is a tough spot to try something brand new. "We're going to try to play them and see how they do and make adjustments from there," Wright said."

Philadelphia Daily News

"Wright repeated his season-long axiom yesterday that his team already had overachieved, regardless of preseason rankings, or its red-hot start. But if Villanova loses today, he may be close to alone in that assessment.  Dissent is not limited to the outside, either. Success has transformed at least some in Nova Nation from nurturing to nasty."

"Wright, by the way, is 8-1 as a higher seed, 4-0 in the second round. At some point, it's not about how you got here. Only that you did."

"The Wildcats might not get to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season, and fifth in the last six. Maybe they're just not good enough at the moment. Or perhaps the Gaels, who beat Gonzaga by 19 in last week's West Coast Conference final and beat seventh-seed Richmond by nine in their tournament opener, are better. Seeds don't mean anything anymore. And the Gaels, who hadn't won an NCAA game since 1959, have the kind of inside-out game that can give certain teams fits. Possibly like Villanova."

"We're very happy to be alive another day," Wright said. "We have a great Saint Mary's team to play. You always dread these kind of teams . . . I haven't figured out [why we've had problems in] the first round. Up until this point we've really just been worried about getting to the first round. So now that we've had some success and I think we have a pretty good team coming back next year, I really do want to look at that."