A Closer Look: UCLA-Villanova
Anyone who doubts Villanova's toughness should take a look at
Such was the intensity of the Wildcats defense. They set the tone early, maintained it late and, as a result, cruised to their second Sweet 16 appearance in as many years. "We've had games where we've had leads and just kind of got lackadaisical," said Wildcats coach
By far, the best byproduct of that wire-to-wire effort was the havoc it wreaked on Collison's game. Usually the picture of sangfroid on the court, Collison struggled to keep up appearances against the Wildcats D. He could scarcely get a shot off, let alone make one (a 52 percent shooter, he finished with 15 points on 40 percent shooting); barely complete a pass, let alone see his targets clearly (he had a game-high five turnovers). What's more, he rarely drove to the hoop unchallenged. The first time he did -- some 26 seconds into the game -- the Wildcats'
Collison would emerge from that experience slightly bloodied, but he remained unbowed in defeat -- particularly when it came to defending the Pac-10's pride. After the loss, he felt compelled to stand up for the league and renewed charges that it may indeed rank among the softest major conferences in the country.
"It's nothing we haven't seen," Collison said of Villanova's toughness, even though he'd make regular appeals to the officials for mercy. "We just didn't get the recognition for physicality. Big East is the main conference that gets credit."
And understandably so. Both teams came into the game looking for blood. But only one actually drew some.
The physicality didn't end for the Bruins when the halftime horn sounded. Because both teams were assigned locker rooms opposite from their bench, the Bruins, after spending the last 20 minutes fighting through the Wildcats' defensive pressure, had to walk behind the scorers' table through a tide of Wildcat players headed the other way just to get off the floor. And even then the Bruins mustered little in the way of resistance.
So far, second-seeded Duke has managed to cobble together an effective inside game without a traditional go-to threat. But it'll be difficult for the Blue Devils to get that going if the Wildcats keep up their tough guy act. "We pride ourselves on letting other teams know how it's going to be for the rest of the game,"