One year ago today, The Villanovan Sports Blog started with a recap of a 71-50 win over Cincinnati. Now, 164 posts, 33 wins and one Final Four later, and we have decided to spend the week commemorating what has been a magical 12 months for Villanova basketball.
What follows is the first of five installments in our week-long series of counting down the top 10 Villanova basketball moments of the past year.
10. Villanova wins the Puerto Rico Tip-Off- Nov. 22, 2009
It is easy to forget that the Villanova season almost began with disaster. After starting 2-0 the Wildcats traveled down to Puerto Rico for a three-game tournament. Even before they stepped on the court, the team was given devastating news as starting freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou was sent home with a viral infection. That viral infection turned out to be Hepatitis B, and Yarou missed eleven games.
A now thin Wildcats team barely survived its first game against George Mason, needing a furious second half comeback and a game-winning three-point shot from the unlikeliest of heros, freshman forward Isaiah Armwood, who played just four minutes. Those three points were his first of the season.
Villanova then handled Dayton and Ole Miss to win the tournament. Junior forward Antonio Pena had an impressive 17 points and 16 rebounds in the final game and earned himself the tournament’s MVP.
9. Scottie Reynolds returns for his senior season- June 9, 2009
With the option to enter the NBA draft and still be able to return the school, Reynolds took a calculated risk and put his name in the draft pool without signing an agent. After participating in workouts for several teams, Reynolds decided his best option would be to return to Villanova for his senior season.
Thus far, it seems like he made the right move as Villanova is 19-1, and Reynolds is averaging a career-best 18.7 points per game. His strong play has his name in both Big East and National Player of the Year conversations, and the Wildcats are off to their best start ever and highest ranking in school history.
In what inevitably had to be a better played game than No. 5 Villanova’s win over George Mason yesterday, the Wildcats got past a pesky No. 18 Dayton team to improve to 4-0 and advance to the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The Wildcats were paced once again by Corey Fisher, who finished with 18 points and continued to show an ability to get to the foul line as he made 10-of-12 shots from the stripe. Throughout the game, Fisher was able to get by his defender and into the lane whenever he wanted to as the Dayton defenders could not stay with him.
Aside from Fisher, Taylor King also looked strong again. Despite starting yesterday, he came off the bench against Dayton as Maurice Sutton started for Villanova. King finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds and showed the energy that Coach Jay Wright needs off the bench.
Next up for Villanova will be the winner of Ole Miss and Kansas State. That game and the Wildcats date with Maryland on Dec. 6 will be the team’s two biggest tests before Big East play begins.
Despite having almost everything possibly go wrong, Villanova survived an upset attempt by George Mason and advanced to the second round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on a 3-point shot by freshman forward Isaiah Armwood.
The day began on a bad note even before the game started as freshman forward Mouphtaou Yarou was forced to return to Villanova after coming down with a viral infection. Things got worse as the Wildcats saw Antonio Pena, Taylor King, Corey Stokes and Maurice Sutton all foul out in the game. Meanwhile, Scottie Reynolds committed ten turnovers, and Corey Fisher made just 1-of-14 shots from the field.
However, the Wildcats overall talent was enough to get by George Mason. A furious second-half comeback had the Wildcats down four with less than a minute to play. Maalk Wayns then connected on a 3-point shot to pull the team within one. After a George Mason free throw, Reynolds drove to the lane and kicked the ball out to Armwood, who connected to give Villanova the 0ne-point lead. In George Mason’s final possession they failed to get a shot off before time expired.
Reynolds led all Wildcats in points with 18, while Fisher finished close behind with 17, including a 14-of-18 day from the foul line. Pena recorded his second straight double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
With the win Villanova will now face Dayton in the second round. The game will be tomorrow at 3 p.m.
Freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou was forced to travel back home after being diagnosed with a viral infection. His status for the rest of the tournament is not clear.
Villanova will begin the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a game against George Mason on November 19 at 2:30 PM. The winner of the game will play the winner of Georgia Tech and Dayton.
The Wildcats are the home team for every game they are in, meaning they are the one-seed.
With recruiting nearly finished and pre-draft workouts still not upon us, this is perhaps the slowest time for college basketball of the entire season. Naturally, Villanova basketball is no exception, however some notes of interest have surfaced over the last 10 days:
- Former Villanova guard and current New Mexico assistant head coach Chris Walker seems to be the frontrunner to replace Pat Chambers at Villanova next season. Walker graduated from Villanova in 1992. Since 1992 he has been heavily involved in coaching, making stops at Loyola Marymount, Vanderbilt, Pepperdine, Villanova, UMass and New Mexico. He has significant ties to Texas recruiting, which would open up another avenue for the Wildcats.
- Corey Fisher will be a part of the United States team in the World University Games that will take place in Serbia this July. Incoming freshman Maalik Wayns will attempt to make the U-19 FIBA World Championship team for the United States in June.
- The field is set for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off next season. Aside from Villanova, the tournament will also feature Boston University (led by Pat Chambers), Dayton, George Mason, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Kansas State and Ole Miss. Villanova should be the favorites and will most likely meet either Dayton or Georgia Tech if they advanced to the finals.
- Early predictions have Villanova and West Virginia as the class of the Big East this season. If Scottie Reynolds returns, expect the Wildcats to be the preseason pick to win the league.
- Kentucky has surpassed Villanova as the top recruiting class according to Rivals.com. The recent additions of DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe have pushed Kentucky to the top. According to Adam Zagoria of SNY, Kentucky may also land #1 recruit PG John Wall, who is deciding between Kentucky and Miami.
- Kyle Lowry has been a key part of the Houston Rockets run in the playoffs. He has served as the backup point guard to Aaron Brooks, but has logged at least 15 minutes in all but one game this postseason. He is averaging 5.5 points per game for the Rockets this postseason.
– David Cassilo