At times it wasn’t pretty, but Villanova got the job done as it knocked off the Bearcats to pick up a road win. The victory may not have been enough to silence doubts, but a win is a win. Here’s a look at the most important aspects of the game:
- Remarkably, the first 13 points of the game were scored by Antonio Pena, Corey Stokes and Mouphtaou Yarou. Stokes had a particularly strong start, scoring 10 points in the first half. The Wildcats needed it as Scottie Reynolds was held scoreless in the first half.
- For one of the first times this season, there were many questions from Wildcat fans about Jay Wright’s rotation. Corey Fisher was subbed from the game almost immediately, and didn’t return for about 10 minutes. Reynolds also sat for five minutes in the first half, and the two played together for just a few minutes in the first half. In the second half both players found themselves on the bench for long stretches yet again. Meanwhile, Reggie Redding led the team in minutes.
- While there was a bad call here and there, the fouling generally went in Villanova’s favor for what seemed like the first time in a month. Cincinnati committed two more fouls (24-22) and sent the Wildcats to the line 14 more times (35-21). It was only the second time in the Big East that the Wildcats had a +10 differential at the line.
- The Wildcats used a 12-1 run to open up the second half and seize control of the game.
- Villanova fans were feeling good about their team when it led 66-51 with 6:08 remaining, but a 14-0 run by Cincinnati over the next 3:26 made it a game again. Much of that run came with Reynolds on the bench, highlighting the strange rotation that Villanova had for most of the game. Reynolds, who has been well-rested all season, played 29 minutes.
- Reynolds once again had a strong second half, scoring all of his 17 points there. He took just one shot in the first half, and finished 3-for-6 in the game.
- The Wildcats almost gave the game away with turnovers by Stokes and Maalik Wayns in the final minute, but the Bearcats were unable to work their way back.
- Cincinnati took 22 more shots than Villanova (66-44) and made just 7 of 30 3-point attempts.
- Yarou once again started and looked strong. He finished with 10 points and seems to have carved out a role in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season.
- Pena fouled out for the eighth time this season, while Taylor King did the same for his fifth time.
- The Wildcats basically went eight deep tonight as Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood played a combined six minutes.
– David Cassilo
I’m here at the Carrier Dome, anxiously awaiting tipoff. After perusing the stat sheets supplied to the media, here are some notes that caught my eye:
- Syracuse is 6-0 vs. ranked teams this season
- Syracuse’s 26 wins are currently tied for the most the team has ever had in the regular season.
- The Orange have posted a higher field-goal percentage than its opponent in all 26 victories.
- Villanova is 12-13 all-time at the Carrier Dome.
- Scottie Reynolds is 36 points behind Keith Herron for second place all-time in Villanova scoring.
- Antonio Pena is shooting 57.8 percent from the field this season (fifth best in the Big East).
- Arinze Onuaku leads all Big East players in field goal percentage at 66 percent.
- Andy Rautins leads the conference with 2.07 steals per game.
- Syracuse and Villanova are the top two teams in scoring margin in the Big East with 16 and 11.9, respectively.
- Syracuse leads the conference in field goal percentage at 52.2 percent.
- Villanova leads the conference in free throw percentage at 75.7 percent. Syracuse is 11th at 67 percent.
- Syracuse’s opponents have shot 38.9 percent from the field.
- The Orange lead the Big East in assists with 19.5 per game.
- Syracuse and Villanova are the top two teams in the Big East steals per game with 10.21 and 8.07, respectively.
– David Cassilo
Last night was the best game that the Wildcats have played since the win at West Virginia. Villanova dominated from the opening tip, seized control and always responded when South Florida got close. It was a 74-59 win, and the Wildcats got 21 points from Scottie Reynolds on Senior Night. Funny how easy it is at The Pavilion.
Even better for Villanova was that Pittsburgh lost to Notre Dame, meaning that even if the team loses on Saturday at Syracuse, it will still hold the 2-seed in the Big East tournament.
To analyze just how good this win was, let’s look at each area that struggled against Pitt and see how it fared Wednesday night.
- Fouls: The Wildcats looked very disciplined on defense, picking up just 17 fouls. Even more important was that very few of those fouls would fall into the category of “stupid” or “unnecessary.” Reggie Redding was the only Wildcat that dealt with foul trouble, and the team was able to overcome his absence. Overall, it was a very low combined foul total (35) for a Big East game, and I’m not sure if the credit should go to both teams or the referees. Either way, it was a step in the right direction for Villanova.
- Half-court offense: While Villanova got its fair share of points out of the fast break, it also looked very comfortable in the half-court. The reason for this was that Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena both played well, giving the Wildcats more scoring options and giving the Bulls more players to defend. The team wasn’t constantly relying on one-on-one moves and looked better for it.
- Bench: One of the main reasons Villanova won was the play of its bench. From the scoring side of it, Dominic Cheek looked fantastic. He finished with 8 points and also added some stellar defense. From the defensive side of it, Mouphtaou Yarou was asked to play a pivotal role, and he did not disappoint. The freshman played 24 minutes and limited the South Florida starting frontcourt to just 12 points. With 4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks, Yarou was a major contributor. Taylor King also looked better shooting the ball, hitting both his shots for 5 points.
- Be Aggressive: Perhaps the only area that Villanova did not remarkably improve was in this one. The Wildcats got to the line just 19 times. However, the game was a blowout and the officials let them play more often than not. Still, the Wildcats would like to see that number up around 25.
- Defense: Ok, we didn’t look at this against Pitt, but it’s worth noting because of the team’s struggles all season. This was arguably Villanova’s most complete defensive game of the season. It held South Florida to 49 points, 38.1 percent shooting and just 42 total shots. It was a complete 40 minutes of defense. Villanova has now put together back-t0-back solid defensive performances, and this might be the sign of things to come.
Although Villanova played great, this was not its perfect game, and I think that’s the most promising part. Throw in a better performance from Corey Fisher, who finished with just 7 points, and add a greater impact from Redding, and this team is firing on all cylinders.
Wednesday was exactly was the Wildcats needed to see, and they seem poised for a strong effort Saturday night at Syracuse.
With back-to-back losses for the first time in two seasons, Villanova has hit that rough stretch that so many experts predicted would arise due to the team’s difficult February schedule. The losses have brought doubt to a team that just two weeks ago had so little.
A season ago, Villanova went through a similar stretch losing three of its first five Big East games before winning six straight games. As a team that has been in the top-10 all season long, the talent is obviously there and perhaps the only positive from this streak is that it happened now and not in March.
With four games left, including two against top-10 teams, here is a look at the Wildcats major areas of concern:
- Fouls: It seems to be a weekly discussion, but after the Pitt game it is worth revisiting again. Overall, Villanova did a better job limiting fouls against Pitt and was hurt by some questionable officiating. However, the Wildcats still have a knack for picking up unnecessary fouls. The team needs to play smarter. As mentioned yesterday, there is no reason Corey Fisher should have put himself in the position to pick up his second foul on that blocking call. Taylor King does not need to set an illegal screen to free up a driving Scottie Reynolds. Realizing the situation and acting accordingly will only help the Wildcats goal to limit their fouls.
- Half-court offense: One of the common threads between the UConn and Pitt losses was the way the game was slowed down. Consequently, Villanova saw it’s fast break points limited and were forced to run its half-court offense more. For a high-scoring team, Villanova looks very uncomfortable in the half-court. It seems like the players are waiting for Reynolds and Fisher to make a play rather than trying to make their own. The exception is Antonio Pena, who has been very aggressive down low lately. This sit-and-wait offense can be highlighted by the fact that Villanova had just one assist in the first half of Sunday. The key to this is getting Corey Stokes and Reggie Redding more involved. They need to look to shoot more, and if they are able to capture their offensive rhythm again, it will make the rest of the team more dangerous.
- Bench: The Wildcat bench has all but disappeared lately. At times Taylor King, Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek have all shown flashes of offensive talent, but none have been able to sustain that success lately. That coupled with the struggles of Redding and Stokes have the Wildcats running a lineup that too often features just one realistic scoring option. A year ago, this was a problem as well because there were times when Redding, Shane Clark and Dwayne Anderson offered very little offensively. Eventually, Anderson stepped up, and the season took off. If this year’s Wildcats can get that boost from a player off the bench, they will become the top-5 team again that they had been for most of the season.
- Be aggressive: For most of the season, Villanova did a great job getting to the foul line. With their own foul problems, the team’s struggles to get to the line have been hidden. While the Wildcats are second in the conference in free throw attempts, the last two games they have went to the line 20 and 18 times, respectively. Meanwhile, their opponents have taken 42 more free throws over that time span. Considering the Wildcats lost those two games by a combined 14 points, it is easy to see the difference. The Wildcats are a smaller, quicker team than most of its opponents and they need to use that to their advantage by attacking the basket and making bigger opponents try to make a play.
The common thread among all these problems is that they can be corrected. With four games remaining, those corrections need to be made quickly. Wednesday’s game against USF is clearly a must win, but it will be important to see if there are improvements in these areas. The Wildcats can beat USF by correcting none of these, but they will be sitting ducks against Syracuse.
– David Cassilo
Sunday’s lost to Pittsburgh was the most agonizing defeat of the season for Wildcat fans. Every time Villanova had a chance to tie or take the lead, it seemed like Pittsburgh caught a break. Here’s a look at everything worth mentioning in Sunday’s loss:
- There were plenty of excruciating moments in the loss, but no sequence proved more critical than with Villanova trailing by two and Scottie Reynolds on a fast break, Taylor King picking up an offensive foul. After a Gilbert Brown free throw, King then air-balled a 3-point attempt for the tie. Those were Villanova’s best two chances in the second half.
- The Wildcats got within one score seven times in the second half but never tied or took the lead.
- The officiating was a killer for the Wildcats. With Corey Fisher picking up two fouls in just over a minute, and Reynolds picking up his second just a few minutes later, Villanova was forced to play a lineup with not many scoring threats for the majority of the first half. It was lucky to trail just 29-23.
- Being at the Zoo, the officiating as a whole was very inconsistent. While I would have rewatch the game to pick out every instance, three stick out particularly. 1) The crowd thought Reynolds should have been given an offensive foul, got loud and just a few seconds later Reynolds was given an offensive foul for a push-off that was legal. 2) Taylor King was falling down already when they called a charge on a Pitt player in the second half. 3) After a Villanova player was mugged, Antonio Pena got called for a foul and did not touch anyone. I believe this was the play before Wright’s technical. From a Villanova writer, this might sound biased, but I don’t recall a game in the Big East this year when I actually felt that the other team had more of a gripe with the officials than Villanova.
- Speaking of fouls Fisher needs to show better judgment early in games. His second foul was a blocking call on a fast break. Rather than force the referees to make a tough call and risk being forced to the bench with two fouls, it might be better show some restraint and allow an early basket.
- It was an up-and-down day for King. I mentioned his bad sequence of events earlier, but he did seem to regain his shooting stroke, connecting on a long 3-point attempt on his way to finishing with 5 points.
- Reynolds was shut down early due to fouls and the defense of Jermaine Dixon, but he still managed to finish with 20 points.
- Once again, the other three starters were almost non-existent offensively. Pena, Corey Stokes and Reggie Redding finished with a combined 23 points.
- The bench has also disappeared recently for Villanova. It was outscored 24-10, a statistic that was unfathomable about a month ago.
- The defense was improved for the Wildcats, as they held Pitt to just 35.1 percent from the field. The reasons they lost? 1) Differential at the foul line as Pitt shot 26-for-34 while Villanova was 11-for-16. 2) Offensive rebounding, where Pittsburgh held an 18-10 advantage. Credit Gary McGhee for grabbing 8 of those offensive rebounds.
- Pittsburgh did a phenomenal job of controlling tempo. They made sure to use almost the entire shot clock on most possessions. When it gathered an offensive rebound, it wound the clock down again. Jaime Dixon also used his timeouts perfectly, slowing down the game and making sure Villanova did not begin to speed up the tempo at any time.
– David Cassilo
For the first time this season, Villanova dropped a game it had no business losing – a home game against a struggling UConn Huskies team. A day after getting a leg up in the Big East race when Syracuse fell at home to Louisville, the Wildcats gave it right back. Here is a look from every angle at Monday’s loss:
- Mouphtaou Yarou: The highly touted freshman finally showed signs of life as he finished with 6 points 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in 13 minutes. After not playing much recently due to matchups, the Wildcats needed Yarou against Connecticut’s big frontcourt, and he did not disappoint.
- Antonio Pena: The five fouls were obviously bad, but keep in mind that when Pena was on the floor he was an offensive threat against the bigger UConn defenders. In just 18 minutes, Pena finished with 10 points.
- Scottie Reynolds’ Second Half: After scoring 14 first half points, the Huskies put the lockdown on Reynolds by double-teaming him. The result: Just four second half points. It’s hard to fault Reynolds too much when he had 18 points, but the Wildcats really needed him in this one.
- Corey Fisher’s start: The junior guard finished the game strong, but until midway in the second half he had just 5 points. With Reynolds being guarded tightly and no one else on the team stepping up, the Wildcats needed Fisher to attack the rim more. He eventually did, but it came a bit too late.
- The third scoring option: Once again, Villanova struggled to find any scoring outside of Reynolds and Fisher. It got 10 points from Pena, but he was limited all game by foul trouble. Reggie Redding had just 9 points, while Corey Stokes took just four shots and scored 4 points after picking two early fouls and playing 14 minutes.
- The bench: The Wildcats’ bench was outscored 27-17. After being one of the team’s strong points for most of the season, it seems almost everyone on the bench has gone into a scoring slump. Perhaps a swap of Isaiah Armwood and Stokes might be a good idea to add some defense to the starting lineup and some offense to the bench.
- Fouls: Villanova picked up four fouls in the first two minutes, and you could tell instantly this was going to be a tough game for the Wildcats to win. Overall, they committed 30 fouls in the game, sending UConn to the line 44 times. This comes just nine days after Villanova allowed Georgetown to take 50 free throw attempts. Kemba Walker, who had a career-high for UConn with 29 points, took 16 free throw attempts while the entire Wildcats’ team took 20. Some of this can be blamed on the referees but most of it falls on Villanova.
- Defense: The Wildcats did not look bad defensively in the first half, but the second half was a totally different story. UConn shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half, making 10 of 15 shots. Part of the defensive woes was the fouling, and this was never more evident than in the final five minutes. During that time span, when Villanova needed crucial stops, not only did they not get those stops, but UConn attempted 16 free throws while taking just three shots. Not the way you want to play defense.
- Taylor King: When the entire student section yells, “No!” while you shoot, you realize that you are in a tough stretch. King was 0-for-6 , all 3-point attempts, against UConn and is now 1-for-16 in his last three games. Wright seems to like everything else he is doing, and it seems that King will get a chance to try to work his way through the slump.
- Maurice Sutton: Five very ugly fouls in just nine minutes. End of story.
Despite a sloppy first half that featured 12 Villanova turnovers, the Wildcats were able to regroup in the final 20 minutes and put away the pesky Friars. Here are the significant notes from today’s game:
- In what was possibly the most blatant turning point in the history of basketball, Scottie Reynolds was rewarded with four free throw attempts after Providence’s Sharaud Curry was given both a personal and technical foul. The two fouls also pushed his total to five, forcing him to watch the remaining 8:07 from the bench. At the time Curry led the team with 19 points. Reynolds hit three of the free throws to push the lead up to 67-60, and Villanova never looked back.
- Reynolds took over in the second half again, this time scoring 17 points after scoring just five in the first half due to foul trouble.
- While Reynolds gets the headlines, Corey Fisher continues to produce at a high level. The junior guard tied with Reynolds for a game-high 22 points.
- Antonio Pena was also a force for the Wildcats. His 15 points and 12 rebounds were his sixth double-double of the season. Jay Wright also credited Pena as being the main reason that the Wildcats were able to keep Providence leading scorer Jamine Peterson quiet for most of the game.
- Taylor King continued to struggle from the floor, and has hit just one of ten shots in his last two games.
- After not seeing any action against West Virginia, Mouphtaou Yarou played five minutes. Wright said after the game that today’s game was not the ideal matchup for Yarou.
- Maalik Wayns, who played just three minutes in his last game, had 4 points in 14 minutes before fouling out.
- After turning the ball over 12 times in the first half, the Wildcats turned it over just three times in the second half.
- Villanova dominated the paint, outscoring Providence 46-24.
– David Cassilo