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January 22, 2007

Week in review: Villanova building a resume

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Thirteen of the teams in the AP top 25 lost at least one game last week.

Unranked Villanova was one of the main culprits. The resurgent Wildcats knocked off a pair of ranked teams - No. 20 Notre Dame (102-87) and No. 21 Texas (76-69).

Texas Tech, also unranked, pulled off the biggest upset of the week with a 69-64 triumph over No. 5 Kansas. The Jayhawks, the highest-ranked team to fall, were riding a 10-game winning streak.

Wichita State, which was ranked in the top 10 at one point this season, continues to hit new lows. The same Shockers squad that pulled off wins at LSU and Syracuse fell to Illinois State (83-75) and Bradley (78-63) in back-to-back Missouri Valley Conference games.

We take an in-depth look at Villanova, Texas Tech and Wichita State's performances and highlight some of the best individual performances of this past week in a A Look Back.

All Eyes On ...
Villanova (13-5, 2-3 Big East)
The Good: The Wildcats did a lot more than grab two big victories. They earned a win over a quality non-conference opponent (barring a collapse from Texas) – a big key for any NCAA Tournament résumé. They also slowed down one of the nation's best and hottest players. Texas' Kevin Durant, who was averaging 34 points in his last four games, was held to 12 points by the Wildcats. Perhaps even more impressive, Villanova did it all without star Curtis Sumpter - who missed the game because of a leg injury. The Wildcats also avoided going 1-4 in the Big East, beating one of the league's best teams in the process. None of it would have been possible without freshman Scottie Reynolds, who scored a season-high 27 points against the Irish and then followed that with 26 more against the Longhorns. Reynolds, who is known best for his outside shooting, also made 21 of 23 (91 percent) free throws.
The Bad: The schedule only gets tougher with road trips to Providence and Notre Dame coming up next, followed by a visit from Pittsburgh. The status of Sumpter also remains uncertain.
The Ugly: None.
Texas Tech (14-5, 3-1 Big 12)
The Good: After falling at Baylor last week, the Red Raiders appeared to be headed toward a losing streak with games against a pair of top-10 teams, Kansas and Texas A&M, coming up next. Instead, they captured a signature win. The victory puts the Raiders in position to contend in the Big 12. It also gives them plenty of momentum for their matchup with the visiting Aggies on Tuesday. Power forward Darryl Dora played a big role in it all. After going scoreless against Baylor, Dora came off the bench to score a season-high 19 points and blocked three shots.
The Bad: Like most of Kansas' losses, they had more to do with the defeat than their opponent. The young squad loaded with four- and five-star recruits lost its focus again, often falling into defensive lapses against the Red Raiders' methodical motion offense. They Jayhawks also took just four free throws.
The Ugly: The Red Raiders got off to a terrible start, committing turnovers on their first three possessions. A repeat performance against the Aggies, who play with a lot more intensity and poise than the Jayhawks, will prove costly.
Wichita State (12-8, 3-6 Missouri Valley)
The Good: The softest part of the conference schedule arrives this week with a home game against last-place Drake (11-9, 2-7) on Tuesday and a trip to Evansville (11-9, 4-5) on Friday. The Shockers beat the Purple Aces 69-56 earlier this month.
The Bad: Most of the blame for the Shockers' downfall lies with their defense. During the defending MVC champs' nine-game winning streak to open the season, they gave up just 58.4 points a game. Opponents have been averaging 69.9 points a game since. Illinois State shot 54 percent from the field and Bradley shot 58 percent. Those numbers need to drop significantly. To win in the MVC, you have to keep games in the 50's and 60's.
The Ugly: The Shockers' NCAA Tournament hopes are slim at best. Missouri State went 12-6 in the league and got left out of the big dance last season. The Shockers would have to win all nine of their remaining league games to match that record. A couple of big non-conference wins help their chances, but two or three more losses will keep them off the bubble for good.
Individual Spotlight
  • Virginia senior J.R. Reynolds scored a career-high 40 points – the most of any player in the ACC this season – in the Cavaliers' 88-76 win over visiting Wake Forest. It was the most points a Virginia player has scored at home since Donald Hand finished with 41 against N.C. State in 1999. Reynolds hit six of eight (75 percent) 3-pointers and was 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
  • The most surprising performance of the week belongs to Cincinnati's Marvin Gentry, who scored a season-high 32 points in the Bearcats' 96-83 triumph over West Virginia in overtime. Gentry's previous season-high was 13 points and he came into the game averaging just 5.5 points a game.
  • Vanderbilt's recent rise up the SEC East standings can be tied directly to the play of Vanderbilt senior Derrick Byars. Byars has averaged 21.5 points and six rebounds over the last four games (he was averaging 13.8 points a game entering that stretch), which have included upsets of Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. Byars poured in 23 points in a 72-67 win at Kentucky on Saturday, the Commodores' second consecutive win at Rupp Arena.
  • The same can be said for senior Roderick Wilmont and Indiana's steady climb up the Big Ten standings. Wilmont has averaged 21 points a game (nearly twice his season average of 11.7 a game) in the Hoosiers' last three wins - triumphs over Penn State, Iowa and Connecticut. The Hoosiers are locked in a three-way tie for second with Michigan and Ohio State.
  • Illinois' slide down the Big Ten standings can be linked to Jamar Smith's shooting slump. The guard who made 50 percent of his 3-point shots last season has made just one of his last 24 attempts from beyond the arc over the last five games. The Illini have gone 2-3 over that stretch with losses to Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
  • Tennessee star Chris Lofton will miss at least one week due to a sprained ankle according to coach Bruce Pearl. Lofton suffered the injury early in the second half of the Volunteers' 64-61 win over South Carolina on Saturday and did not return. There was too much swelling to evaluate the injury after the game and X-rays have been scheduled for today.
  • Freshmen Spotlight
  • Greg Oden was nearly perfect from the field and the free-throw line in Ohio State's 82-63 win over Iowa. Oden made 12-of-13 shots and all five of his free throws, scoring a season-high 29 points. He also pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
  • Washington's Spencer Hawes isn't just one of the nation's top freshmen, he's also one of the most valuable to his team. That was clear in Washington State's 75-47 thrashing of the Huskies on Saturday. With Hawes not able to play due to an ankle injury, the Huskies looked lost offensively. They went scoreless for a nine-minute stretch in the first half.
  • Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.

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