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Men’s Basketball: CATNIPPED.

Chris Khorey | Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fifty-seven percent field goal shooting, 102 points and two players scoring 20-plus were recipe for defeat in Notre Dame’s road contest against Villanova Wednesday.

A Wildcats offensive explosion handed the Irish their second conference loss, 102-86 in front of a rowdy sell out crowd at The Pavilion in Philadelphia.

Villanova (12-5, 2-3 Big East) scored the most points of any Irish opponent this year. The previous high the Irish allowed was the 87 scored by Lehigh Nov. 27.

“They made some big shots when I thought we were in pretty good defensive position,” Irish coach Mike Brey said in his post-game radio interview. “That was frustrating.”

Freshman guard Scottie Williams led the Wildcats with 27 points, while forward Curtis Sumpter added 21. Forward Dante Cunningham and guard Mike Nardi both came just short of the 20-point barrier, scoring 19 and 18, respectively.

Notre Dame fell to 15-3 and 3-2 in conference with the loss, its second straight road defeat.

“I’m going to talk to [the team] about having a better road demeanor,” Brey said.

Villanova jumped out to an early 16-6 and held the 10-point margin for most of the game, scoring nearly every time down the floor.

“They jumped on us early,” Brey said. “It was a tough hole to climb out of.”

Three-point shooting kept the Irish close, with six threes by guard Russell Carter and five more by guard Colin Falls. As a team, the Irish shot 44 percent from beyond the arc.

Notre Dame made a late run, pulling within seven at 79-72 with a little over five minutes remaining. The Wildcats responded with an 11-4 run, capped by a three from guard Shane Clark that sent the Pavillion crowd into convulsions.

“I liked the effort throughout the second half,” Brey said. “But I didn’t like the execution.”

Villanova sunk its free throws the rest of the way to stretch its lead.

Carter led the Irish with 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field. Falls added 17 points, 15 of them on his five three-pointers. Freshmen forward Luke Harangody scored 13 points.

Senior forward Rob Kurz added 11 for Notre Dame, but shot just 3-of-9 from the field.

Irish freshmen point guards Tory Jackson and Jonathan Peoples combined for nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and nine assists. The two rookies have seen increased playing time since sophomore Kyle McAlarney was charged with marijuana possession Dec. 29 and suspended indefinitely.

The rest of the Irish will be back in action Sunday at the Joyce Center against South Florida. The Bulls are 10-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big East.