With five off days following Villanova’s loss on Monday to UConn there is plenty of time to dissect everything that went wrong. The defense has fallen under the most scrutiny as the Huskies dominated the second half. The most troubling aspect of the defense is that despite leading by just one after halftime the Huskies needed just 15 shots from the field in the second half to break open the game.
Fouls by Villanova were the major reason for this, and most of them were not smart fouls at all. It highlights a disturbing trend that has attributed to their woes on defense:
- In its last four games Villanova has committed 38, 24, 23 and 30 fouls. Those fouls have sent its opponent to the free throw line 159 times during that span.
- In the team’s previous 21 games, it committed 23 or more fouls seven times. In the last four games it has reached that total every single time.
- When Villanova commits 30 or more fouls, its record is 1-2. When it commits less than that, it is 21-1.
Winning 95 percent of the time the Wildcats commits less than 30 fouls is impressive. Even in the Big East, there is no reason to reach more fouls that that.
Along the lines of the foul disparity, allowing teams to shoot so many free throws has hurt Villanova and inflated its points allowed.
- In Villanova’s last six games, opponents have attempted at least 30 free throws in five of them. The team is 4-2 during this span.
- Overall, the Wildcats are 10-2 when their opponent attempts 30 or more free throws and 12-1 when they do not.
While fouling the other team has Villanova struggling to get defensive stops, perhaps its greatest problem is creating its own free throw attempts. Early in the season, Villanova excelled at getting to the free throw line, but since Big East has began, that success has been more sporadic.
- Villanova has gotten to the free throw 24 or more times in just seven of its last 16 games.
- Why is that significant? The Wildcats are 15-0 this season when it gets to the free throw line that many times and just 7-3 when they do not.
Getting to the free throw line 24 times in a game is not an astronomical number, and with the team’s aggressive guards, Villanova should be around that number every single game.
While limiting their own fouls is clearly a problem that needs to be corrected, perhaps not settling for jump shots on offense and being more aggressive is the key to the team’s success. Villanova might need to make their foul problem, their opponent’s problem.
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.