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Quick recap: West Virginia 68 Villanova 66 (OT)

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

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Quick recap: Villanova 77 Cincinnati 73

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

Foul play? A look at Villanova’s problem

The one reason pointed out by so many people as to why Villanova has lost four of its last seven games has been the problem with fouls. After being quiet about it for weeks, Jay Wright publicly voiced his displeasures with the officials after the loss to Syracuse, saying that he has watched tape of the last six or seven games, and the fouling is not his team’s fault. What better way to analyze this than to compare his team’s last seven games in the Big East with its first nine:

First nine games:

  • Record: 9-0
  • Average fouls: 21.6 for, 22.9 against
  • Average free throws: 27.2 for, 26.7 against
  • More fouls than opponent: 4 games (tie against Louisville)
  • Less fouls than opponent: 4 games
  • More free throws than opponent: 4 games
  • Less free throws than opponent: 5 games
  • 10 or more fouls than opponent: 0 games
  • 10 or less free throws than opponent: 0 games
  • 25 or more fouls: 2 games

Last seven games:

  • Record: 3-4
  • Average fouls: 26.1 for, 19.1 against
  • Average free throws: 20.9 for, 35 against
  • More fouls than opponent: 5 games
  • Less fouls than opponent: 2 games
  • More free throws than opponent: 0 games
  • Less free throws than opponent: 6 games (tie against USF)
  • 10 or more fouls than opponent: 3 games
  • 10 or less free throws than opponent: 5 games
  • 25 or more fouls: 4

Through the first nine games of Big East play the fouls and free throws were relatively even for Villanova. Over the last seven games, those numbers have jumped decidedly in its opponents favor. Villanova averages seven more fouls than its opponent and is shooting 14.1 less free throws per game.

Villanova has shot 10 more free throws than its opponent in just one game (Seton Hall). It has had that same feat done to them five of the last seven games.

The Wildcats fouls a lot, but before the Georgetown game they lost, they didn’t. It’s hard to put a finger on why this is happening. Is it having a deep bench? Is it the officiating? It is playing careless?

If it’s the officiating, two things will show this. The first is to see if there’s any immediate response to Wright’s comments in the Cincinnati game tomorrow. The second will be how often the team fouls in the NCAA tournament, when there are new sets of refs.

The fact is that without the problem corrected, Villanova’s days in March are numbered.

– David Cassilo

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What now? Analyzing the loss to Cuse

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Villanova got handled by Syracuse on the national stage on Saturday night, and with its fourth loss of the month, it is only natural to question whether this team is as good as it was supposed to be. There’s plenty of time this week to get in to that, so here we will just focus on the Syracuse game and what went wrong:

  • Villanova played very well early, jumping out to a 23-14 lead with 11:33 remaining in the first half. Then the Wildcats fell apart, hitting just one field goal in the next nine minutes. By the end of that time span, Syracuse led 36-33 and never looked back.
  • Scottie Reynolds started off on fire, hitting two 3-point attempts and would have had a third if Antonio Pena wasn’t called for a 3-second violation. However, Reynolds only hit one more basket the rest of the half. He finished with 16 and outplayed Wesley Johnson, which perhaps gives him the Player of the Year in the conference, but it was clearly not enough. Amazingly, Reynolds did not attempt a free throw. Let’s get in to that…
  • The foul differential was in Syracuse’s favor 25-14. The free throw attempts were 33-18 for Syracuse. After the game Jay Wright had had enough. He said, “I watched the fouling for six or seven games, and I don’t think it’s our fault. I’m adamant. It’s not our fault.” After missed calls, no calls and incorrect calls for a month, he has finally made public his feelings about the officiating. We will expand on this later in the week.
  • Taylor King looked terrible at times, missing badly on a handful of 3-point attempts. If it wasn’t for the foul trouble, I think Wright would have pulled him. He finished 2-for-7, but did grab 8 rebounds.
  • Reggie Redding started the game for Villanova, played 18 minutes and did not take a shot. For a senior leader who is looked towards to get his team going and be an offensive threat, that is unacceptable.
  • Perhaps the lone bright spot for Villanova was the play of Mouphtaou Yarou. Starting in place of Corey Stokes, Yarou shot 6-for-8 from the field and finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Perhaps most promising was that he was hitting jump shots. It would have been interesting to see what he could have done were it not for two early fouls. With the performance, he may get another start on Tuesday.
  • With the loss, Villanova can finish no better than second in the Big East. It will do just that if it wins its final two games. If it splits the two games, it could finish as low as fourth.

David Cassilo

Losing to UConn: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

February 16, 2010 1 comment

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:

The Good

  • 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.

The Bad

  • 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.

The Ugly

  • 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.

-David Cassilo

Villanova runs past Providence 92-81

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

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

What was exposed against Georgetown?

February 7, 2010 1 comment

Many reasons are being tossed around for Saturday’s 103-90 defeat at Georgetown.  Among them is the travel problems, wide foul discrepancy, hot Georgetown shooting (specifically, Jason Clark) and the poor Villanova shooting in the first half.  Now that Villanova has lost again, let’s examine some of the problems that have been exposed:

1) Fouls

While many will point to yesterday’s high foul total as partly the referee’s fault, the fact remains that Villanova is fouling at an extremely high rate.  The Wildcats have attempted the second most free throws in the conference in Big East games with 271 (USF leads with 273).  However, they also have allowed their opponents to attempt 287 free throws, including the 50 that Georgetown attempted on Saturday.

Limiting fouling is a complicated task because you do not want to limit your team’s aggressiveness.  However, the main reason that Villanova’s defense has struggled is because its opponents are getting so many chances to score with the clock stopped.  Perhaps it is a result of running such a small lineup, but the fact is Villanova needs to stop having its players get in foul trouble and consequently, allowing other teams free points.

2) Disappearance of the third scoring option

We know Scottie Reynolds is having a fantastic season, and that Corey Fisher is a great No. 2 option and one of the most underrated guards in the country.  What we don’t know is, who is that third option?  Here are how many times the rest of the team has scored in double-figures in the ten games of Big East play:

  • Antonio Pena: 3
  • Taylor King: 1
  • Corey Stokes: 4
  • Maalik Wayns: 4
  • Reggie Redding: 2
  • Dominic Cheek: 1

The fact is that Pena, Stokes and Redding need to improve their offensive outputs if this team is going to reach its potential.  They are the team’s veterans.  For example, Redding attempted just two shots on Saturday.  That is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Wayns and King have to find their groove that they had earlier in the season.  They need to become like Fisher was last season for the team, where he came off the bench and gave them instant office.  Cheek will have more chances to score because he has been playing strong defense and that will earn him more minutes.

Does Villanova need seven guys in double-figures every night?  That would be nice, but a bit unrealistic.  Does it need a consistent third option?  Absolutely.  Don’t forget that last season, while Dante Cunningham and Reynolds were carrying the team for most of the season, it wasn’t until Dwayne Anderson found his offensive groove that the team became its most dangerous.

3) Defense

As different as this team is from last year’s, the 2010 group could learn a little from last year’s team.  Let’s rewind back to Feb. 13 of last season, roughly a year ago.  After winning six straight games, Villanova suffered a beat down at the hands of West Virginia, 93-72.  Much like this year, that loss was in the middle of a terrible defensive skid that saw the Wildcats give up 80+ points in six straight games from Feb. 4 to Feb. 22.

On Mar. 2, the team traveled to Notre Dame and shut down the Fighting Irish offense, allowing just 60 points.  From that game until the end of the season, Villanova’s defense was drastically improved.  In fact, it was perhaps the main reason the team went so far in the tournament.  Just ask UCLA and Duke, who were kept under wraps by the Wildcats all game long.

The lesson?  There is a lot of time, and quite honestly, Jay Wright would probably admit this team is further along than he would have imagined.  There are six new additions to this year’s team, and the hardest thing to get a young player to figure out when he comes from high school is the defensive adjustment that he now must make.  Wright stressed it early in the season and continues to stress it.

Eventually, his young kids will have to figure it out for this team to get back to the Final Four, and if that is on Mar. 2 again, we will once again being saying,”Just in time.”

– David Cassilo