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Villanova Wings It in Philadelphia Story

September 06, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

Talk about midnight madness.

Villanova and Temple will open the college basketball season precisely at 12:01 a.m. EST on Nov. 21, the first minute the NCAA allows regular-season games to be played, preserving a storied rivalry but forcing the Wildcats to play two games in two days on two coasts.

When it looked as if the Philadelphia-area schools couldn't agree on a time or place to play, Villanova scheduled games Nov. 21 against Claremont-Mudd and Nov. 22 against Redlands, two Division III schools, before heading to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, Nov. 24-26.

The Wildcats on Friday said they were dropping their game against Claremont but will play at Redlands as scheduled at 10 a.m. on the 22nd, then fly to Maui.

With five players suspended for the unauthorized use of an athletic department telephone calling card, the Wildcats hoped to play the two Southland schools to open the season, then get two players eligible before the Maui tournament.

Temple balked when Villanova asked to reschedule their game and didn't immediately inform the Owls about the two games in Southern California. But that was all patched up by Friday afternoon.

"I am glad that we're playing this game," Villanova Coach Jay Wright said. "It is important to Philadelphia basketball that we maintain this rivalry."

After their game at Temple's Liacouras Center, the Wildcats plan to fly to Southern California, then get a good night's sleep before facing Redlands, which had a 10-15 record last season.

When asked Friday if he hoped to catch Villanova at a weak moment in his gym, Bulldog Coach Greg Smith said with a chuckle, "I certainly hope so."

Ken Scalmanini, Claremont's coach, said he understood the situation after Villanova officials explained why they needed to cancel the game.

"I kind of see what happened, but we're disappointed," he said. "We thought we had an opportunity to play against someone really good."

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