Down by eight points with 3:57 remaining, Villanova seemed destined to become the fifth 2-seed to fall to a 15-seed. Then, for perhaps the first time this season, the Wildcats got stops what they needed on defense against Robert Morris. Villanova rallied, forced overtime and eventually won its first game in over two weeks to advance to the second round.
“Phew,” said senior guard Scottie Reynolds. “I forgot what that felt like.”
It seemed like a cursed day from the start for Villanova. Head Coach Jay Wright decided before the game to bring Reynolds and junior guard Corey Fisher off the bench as a teaching point. What they did was not discussed after the game, but Reynolds tried to summed it up in his own way.
“You have to be excellent all the time,” said Reynolds. “You can’t have any of flaws.”
Reynolds’ team had many flaws in its first round game. The Wildcats were outrebounded 21-10 in the first half and trailed 28-22 at the break. Reynolds, Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena and Reggie Redding combined for six points in the first half.
The game was put in Reynolds’ hands in the second half, particularly when the team was trailing by eight with 3:57 remaining. Despite shooting 1-for-14 from the field, Reynolds was able to get to the line consistently in the final few minutes, hitting seven-of-eight free throws. Overall, Reynolds made 15-of-16 free throws and finished with 20 points.
Freshman guard Karon Abraham, who finished with 23 points, had all the answers for Robert Morris. When Villanova was rallying, Abraham hit every big shot the Colonials needed, including a layup to break a tie at 56 with 1:07 remaining.
On the next possession, freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, hit a layup to tie the game.
Abraham missed a chance to take the lead with 39 seconds left, and the Wildcats were able to take the shot for the win. Reynolds held the ball for the majority of the clock, but he missed the layup, and it was tipped out of bounds with 0.9 seconds remaining. For the win, Villanova ran an alley-oop inbounds play to redshirt freshman center Maurice Sutton, but he was unable to to connect.
In overtime, Villanova quickly took control, scoring the first six points. While it controlled the game for most of the overtime, Robert Morris battled back and found themselves down three points with 39 seconds remaining. Villanova inbounded the ball to Stokes, but Colonials senio guard Mezie Nwigwe stole the ball from him and hit a layup to cut the score to 68-67.
Yarou, Redding and Reynolds hit five-of-six free throws, and Robert Morris trailed 73-70 with nine seconds remaining. Unable to get the ball to Abraham, the Colonials settled for a desperation three-point attempt by Nwige that was off the mark.
The loss was tough to swallow for the Colonials.
“My insides just got torn out,” said Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice, who was fighting off tears after the loss. “I’m just proud to coach them.”
His team, who played the role of David well against the most recent Goliath, received a standing ovation from the Providence crowd as he left the floor.
As was first reported by The Villanovan, Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher will not start for Villanova today. Instead Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes will take their place in the lineup.
Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com, is reporting that the incident has nothing to with off-court issues.
Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns all find themselves honored by the league. With Reynolds being the only unanimous selection, it would suggest he is the favorite for Big East player of the year.
ALL-BIG EAST FIRST TEAM
Greg Monroe, Georgetown, C, So., 6-11, 247, New Orleans, La.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, F, Sr., 6-8, 255, Schererville, Ind.
Dominique Jones, USF, G, Jr., 6-4, 205, Lake Wales, Fla.
Wes Johnson, Syracuse, F, Jr., 6-7, 205, Corsicana, Texas
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, G, Sr., 6-2, 190, Herndon, Va. *
Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia, F, Sr., 6-7, 225, Newark, N.J.
ALL-BIG EAST SECOND TEAM
Austin Freeman, Georgetown, G, Jr., 6-4, 237, Mitchelville, Md.
Lazar Hayward, Marquette, F, Sr., 6-6, 225, Buffalo, N.Y.
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh, G, So., 6-2, 190, Scotch Plains, N.J.
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, G, Jr., 6-5, 185, Bronx, N.Y.
Andy Rautins, Syracuse, G, Sr., 6-5, 195, Jamesville, N.Y.
ALL-BIG EAST THIRD TEAM
Jerome Dyson, Connecticut, G, Sr., 6-3, 190, Potomac, Md.
Kemba Walker, Connecticut, G, So., 6-1, 172, Bronx, N.Y.
Samardo Samuels, Louisville, F, So., 6-9, 260, Trelawny, Jamaica
Corey Fisher, Villanova, G, Jr., 6-1, 200, Bronx, N.Y.
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia, F, So., 6-9, 210, Long Island City, N.Y.
BIG EAST HONORABLE MENTION
Jimmy Butler, Marquette, F, Jr., 6-6, 215, Tomball, Texas
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame, F, Jr., 6-8, 232, Unionville, Conn.
Jamine Peterson, Providence, F, So., 6-6, 230, Brooklyn, N.Y.
BIG EAST ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati, G, Fr., 6-5, 210, Brooklyn, N.Y. *
Alex Oriakhi, Connecticut, F/C, Fr., 6-9, 240, Lowell, Mass.
Vincent Council, Providence, G, Fr., 6-2, 180, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dane Miller, Rutgers, F, Fr., 6-7, 210, Henrietta, N.Y. *
Brandon Triche, Syracuse, G, Fr., 6-4, 198, Jamesville, N.Y.
Maalik Wayns, Villanova, G, Fr., 6-1, 185, Philadelphia, Pa.
* unanimous selection
At halftime, Villanova led 29-16. It’s defense looked like it had finally come together, and it appeared that the team would get a much needed confidence building victory heading into the Big East tournament.
How quickly things can change.
West Virginia outscored Villanova 44-31 in the second half, and the Wildcats needed a Corey Fisher 3-point shot with 7.7 seconds left to send the game to overtime. In the extra session, the teams were tied at 66-66 when Da’Sean Butler blew by Reggie Redding for a layup to put his team ahead with 5.8 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats had a chance to win it when the play that Jay Wright drew up worked perfectly, leaving Scottie Reynolds wide open in the corner for a 3-pointer after a pass from Redding, but Reynolds’ shot clanked off the back of the rim as time expired.
The result was a devastating 68-66 loss for Villanova to put a cap on a disappointing finish to the regular season. Villanova dropped five of its last nine games to finish 24-6 overall and 13-5 in the Big East.
The game began to slip into West Virginia’s favor early in the second half when the Wildcats committed six fouls in the first 5:02. By the 9:30 mark Villanova already had nine (two of which were questionable holds away from the ball), and Wright lost his cool and received a technical.
After the technical, the calls began to fall back into Villanova’s favor, and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins became irate and received a technical too. The game was called poorly for both sides on Saturday.
In the end, it wasn’t the officiating that did Villanova in but instead the play of Butler. With Villanova up 55-53 in regulation, Butler hit a wide-open 3-point shot from the top of they key to give his team a 56-55 lead with 52 seconds remaining. His heroics continued later on the game-winning shot in overtime. He finished the contest with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite missing the game-winner, Reynolds once again led the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points. He now stands at 2,184 points for his career, trailing Kerry Kittles by 59 for the school record.
Reynolds did appear a bit beaten up in the game. He fell hard to the floor numerous times, including a play where he jumped over the CBS commentators. He was grimacing often in the second half and did not appear to be 100 percent.
Fisher and Redding also had double-figures in scoring for Villanova with 12 and 10, respectively. Junior Corey Stokes continued his strong play since moving to the bench as he finished with 11 points.
One player who remained on that bench for Villanova was Taylor King. Jay Wright said that King did not play Saturday because of a “teaching point.”
The loss has Villanova most likely slated for the four-seed in the Big East tournament, barring an upset by Rutgers at Pittsburgh. If it is the four-seed, Villanova’s first game would be 2 p.m. on Thursday against the winner of Marquette and its yet to be determined opponent.
– David Cassilo
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
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