HONOLULU -- It was late Monday night, at least by Philadelphia time, when the Villanova Wildcats left Blaisdell Arena and headed for the bus, and the airport, and what was sure to be a less-than-pleasant 14-hour trip home.
For the second time in as many days, the 'Cats dropped a down-to-the-wire basketball game, this time a closer-than-it-sounds 86-79 defeat by Hawaii that left them unhappy fourth-place finishers in the Rainbow Classic. And now they had 14 hours to think about it -- 14 hours to contemplate the loss, and their 2-5 record, and their turnover problems, and, most pressing, their impending date with Big East favorite St. John's, which is but one day and a wicked case of jet lag away.
"We've reached a low in our season and I think we have to regroup and go from there," said junior Lance Miller, who played well enough the past few days to have nothing to worry about personally. Not that that eases his mind much, anyway.
Miller had a team-high 23 points Monday night to total 60 for the three games.
"I thought Lance had a very good tournament," coach Rollie Massimino said.
Villanova was within three points of the Rainbows with as little as 50 seconds remaining Monday night. Miller took the ball and drove straight for the basket, only to have his shot batted away at the last second by Rainbows forward Fabio Ribeiro -- who scored 13 of his 20 points from the free-throw line, most during the final minutes of the game.
After that, nothing seemed to go the Wildcats' way. Already, James Bryson and Marc Dowdell had fouled out; within seconds, Arron Bain would join them, then Greg Woodard as well. To make matters worse, the Rainbows -- who had missed half of their free throws over the previous three minutes -- made eight of eight down the stretch.
Then, there was that foul called on Calvin Byrd that sent Kurt Taylor to the line for two -- which put Hawaii up, 82-77 -- rather than Villanova's getting the ball in its end. The 'Nova bench response to that call was, shall we say, a bit volatile.
"I never say anything about the officiating," Massimino said afterward, but his face when the call was made had said it all anyway. From the 'Nova bench, it looked as if Byrd didn't touch Taylor, but the replay showed that he had grabbed Taylor's jersey.