- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Villanova will dress only seven players tomorrow night against Georgetown in the first round of the Big East tournament at New York's Madison Square Garden.

The school suspended 12 players before Saturday's 56-54 loss to No. 5 Pittsburgh after a telephone scandal involving the unauthorized use of a university access code, and none of those players will be back against the Hoyas. The suspensions range from three to eight games depending on the dollar amount each player charged.

"We're going to play the same guys that are eligible for Georgetown five scholarship players and two walk-ons," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "You're dealing with young kids who made poor decisions, and now they are paying the price."

The Hoyas (14-13, 6-10 Big East) know the Wildcats (15-14, 8-8) will be the sentimental favorites because of their predicament.

"The one thing that Villanova has in their favor, and I saw it when I was watching the [Pitt] game yesterday, is that they really had the announcers rooting for them," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. "I think they will have the fans rooting for them because they really only have those five kids that are on scholarship and two walk-ons coming off the bench. They've almost turned it into a storybook finish type of thing, and we've got to make sure we don't fall into that and let it be a storybook finish."

Despite playing with a depleted roster, the Wildcats took the Panthers to the final seconds Saturday before losing. The Panthers did their part by missing seven straight free throws late in the game, including five by second-team All-Big East point guard Brandin Knight. The Panthers also turned over the ball on numerous possessions in the waning minutes.

The Wildcats will use a three-guard alignment against the Hoyas, with freshmen Randy Foye and Allan Ray and junior Derrick Snowden, who is from Baltimore, in the backcourt. Up front, the Wildcats are at a real disadvantage with 6-foot-9 sophomore Marcus Austin, who averages 1.8 rebounds a game, and 6-7 freshman forward Curtis Sumpter. With no big bodies on the bench, Austin and Sumpter may have to go the distance against Georgetown.

The 6-2 Ray (10.2 points a game) and 6-3 Foye (10.1) are Villanova's third and fourth-leading scorers, respectively. Snowden is averaging 8.2 points, while Sumpter is averaging 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds. Seldom-used guards Michael Claxton, the younger brother of San Antonio Spurs guard Craig "Speedy" Claxton, and 6-0 Tom Grace are Wright's two available walk-ons.

Georgetown's players know they can't be overly confident against the East Division's depleted fourth seed.

"People want us to lose. People expect us to blow them out because they only have seven players. There's going to be a lot of things said, so we just have to come out and be ready to play," first-team All-Big East forward Mike Sweetney said. "You shouldn't put this team down because they only have seven players. There's some teams out there that only play six or seven players."

Villanova's leading scorers, seniors Gary Buchanan (15.4 points) and forward Ricky Wright (12.5 points and a team-leading 7.8 rebounds), probably have played the last game of their collegiate careers unless Villanova gets a spot in the NIT.

Each player's suspension is determined by how much he charged. Between $100 and $300 meant a three-game suspension; between $300 and $500 was six games; and $500 or more was eight games. Jay Wright said the university is still going through the phone records to find the actual dollar amounts for each player.

"I'm in charge of maintaining this tradition," Wright said. "I'm disappointed for the fans, alumni and students. I'm disappointed for the seniors that it ends up this way and this is how they will end their careers."

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