In case you do not receive our paper edition of The Villanovan, here is the infographic from this week’s “Beyond the Numbers” page, where each week we break down statistics on Villanova basketball. This week: A look at the point guards.
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.
For the first time since 2003, Villanova was one-and-done in the Big East tournament. Instead of using the tournament as a way to start a turnaround, the Wildcats suffered their fifth loss in the last seven games. Let’s look at the latest of those defeats:
- Marquette was unbelievably hot from beyond the arc. It hit all six of its attempts in the second half. More than anyone else it was Darius Johnson-Odom who hurt the Wildcats. He was 5-for-7 from deep and finished with 24 points.
- One of the reasons the Golden Eagles were able to shoot so well from deep was their patience on offense. They routinely wound the shot clock down and waited for an open three. Villanova was often too slow to rotate, and Marquette was rewarded for its patience.
- The dagger was a Lazar Hayward 3-point shot that broke a 70-70 tie with 1:51 remaining. The Wildcats never managed to tie the game again.
- The win for Marquette was sweet revenge after losing four straight to Villanova. The last four meetings between the teams have been decided by a combined nine points.
- Scottie Reynolds played possibly his worst game of the Big East season. He hit just four of ten shots and finished with 10 points. He now stands 49 points behind Kerry Kittles for the the most points in Villanova history. The Wildcats would likely have to advance to the Sweet 16 for him to break the mark.
- Villanova got off to a very slow start, and one of the reasons why was its 10 first half turnovers. Effects of the double-bye or just the standard for Villanova now?
- Corey Stokes was clearly the Wildcats best player, scoring 22 points off the bench. He hit eight of nine shots, including six of seven from long range.
- Maalik Wayns had one of his better games in recent memory, scoring eight points off the bench.
- One Wildcat who had a particularly poor performance was Reggie Redding. He shot 1-for-9 from the field and finished with just two points. He also took a very questionable shot with Villanova down 73-70 with 1:20 remaining when he forced a layup in traffic. The Wildcats never had the ball down one score again. Despite the performance, Redding led the team with 38 minutes.
- Taylor King, who’s status was questionable until Tuesday, played two minutes, committed a reckless foul and was then benched for the rest of the game. Isaiah Armwood didn’t play at all.
- The Wildcats only committed 17 fouls, held the rebounding advantage and shot a higher-percentage than Marquette but still lost.
- After the game Reynolds made a very interesting comment by saying that he felt the Wildcats were better now than they were when they were ranked No. 2 in the country. Whether its delusion or trying to remain confident, the Wildcats do not sound like a team that is free-falling the last month.
– David Cassilo
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 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
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