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28 January 2007

#22 Notre Dame edges 'Nova

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/28/2007 03:55:00 AM

Villanova 63
#22 Notre Dame 66

(box score)

#22 Notre Dame: 17-4 (5-3 BE)
Villanova: 13-6 (14-6, 3-4 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: vs. #9 Pittsburgh, 01/29 @ The Wachovia Center.

Villanova dropped an eminently winnable game tonight against the 22nd-ranked Fighting Irish in South Bend. The Wildcats indeed looked like the better team for much of the game, but simply could not close the deal at the end.

Villanova led by as much as 7 as late as 6:50 to play in the game, but then allowed a 9-0 Notre Dame run. During that stretch, which took up only 2 minutes and 16 seconds on the game clock, Villanova managed to commit 3 fouls and miss 3 layups. The momentum shifted to Notre Dame.

But it's not as if Notre Dame didn't try to give Villanova every opportunity to win the game -- it did. In an ending befitting a sloppy, poorly executed game overall, the Irish allowed Villanova three distinct chances to tie the game with a three. Though all three attempts missed, Notre Dame could have locked up the game without the drama. After all, the Irish did lead by 6 with 37 seconds remaining.

Villanova could not take advantage, however, and thus fell to 3-4 in-conference, with #9 Pittsburgh coming to town on Monday.

It was an ugly, low-scoring, foul-ridden, rotten game. Poetry in motion, it was not. The halftime score was 25-21 in favor of Villanova, which led by 4 at the break despite putting up half the points it scored in its first game against Notre Dame, 10 days ago.

So what went wrong for Villanova? A few things. First, poor shooting. The 'Cats shot the ball at a horrendous 33.3 percent clip, 20-60 from the field. That said, it wasn't much worse than Notre Dame's hardly-scorching 16-46 shooting effort, 34.8 percent. That's just how ugly this game was.

That's right, Villanova actually made 4 more field goals than the Irish. Notre Dame more than made up for it, though, at the foul line, sinking 29 free throws in a ridiculous 37 attempts. Villanova can not make a habit of giving conference opponents the chance for 37 free points.

Correspondingly, the 'Cats spent much of the game in foul trouble. Nardi and Clark fouled out, while Cunningham and Sheridan played with 4 fouls.

Despite all that, Villanova was in the game and actually was leading down the stretch. It was the team's inability to execute in the clutch that did in the 'Cats tonight. Jay's rotation may have been partially to blame.

Scottie Reynolds played 35 turnover-free minutes before losing the ball twice in his last 3 minutes. Reynolds was visibly exhausted at the end of the game. Nardi also looked tired before fouling out in his 35th minute.

Perhaps these two could have been given breathers while Dwayne Anderson and Bilal Benn filled in. Anderson did not see the floor and Benn played only 5.9 seconds. Jay Wright knows his team's stamina better than anyone, but it seems to me that if our best player is too tired to carry the team in the clutch, he should get some rest before the game goes down to the wire.

Similarly, our big men ran the floor in the growing shadow of foul trouble. With Dante, Clark, and Sheridan all in danger of fouling out, why not sub in Casiem Drummond (did not play) for a spell?

Hopefully these substitution issues can be overcome before the biggest game of the season so far Monday at the Wachovia Center versus the top-ten-ranked Panthers. An upset over Pittsburgh may serve as Big-Dance insurance if Villanova finds itself on the bubble in March.

Onto the player grades. As always, click "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 38 min)

    Reynolds continues to carry the team offensively. Scottie has led the team in scoring the past 4 games, and 6 out of the last 7. He is one of the best rookies in the country and one of the best guards in the conference. Reynolds struggled from the field in the first half, missing all 6 of his shots. He turned it on in the second half, though, shooting 5-8 from the floor to finish with 19 points. Scottie continued his excellent free-throw performance, netting 8-9 tonight. Despite handling the ball the entire game, he committed only 2 turnovers, though both were key mistakes in crunch time. He was clearly tired at game's end; Jay needs to find a way to rest him a little if he is going to be needed in the closing moments of close games. Scottie also led the team in assists, with 8, and steals, with 3. He quite literally left it all on the table tonight, trying to will his team to victory, but came up just short. You can't ask for anything more.
    Grade: A-

  • Mike Nardi (S, 38 min)

    Nardi played a good game on the offensive end tonight. He scored 11 on decent shooting, 4-11 from the field and 3-7 from the three. He added 3 assists, 2 steals, and had just 1 turnover. Where his game lacked was on defense. Notre Dame's two starting guards lit up the 'Cats for 37 combined points, and many of those were due to defensive lapses by Nardi. Mike also committed 2 terrible fouls on 3-point shooters well after the ball's release. (One of those shots was later ruled a two-point attempt.) Nardi eventually fouled out of the game.
    Grade: C+

  • Will Sheridan (S, 31 min)

    Sheridan got a lot of run tonight, 31 minutes, despite facing foul trouble. The team seems to function best, however, with Will getting 20-25 minutes of playing time. In the last two wins against Texas and Providence, Sheridan had 24 and 23 minutes, respectively. I do not see what Jay Wright sees to justify so many minutes. Sheridan shot 1-4 from the field, and did not reach the foul line. He had just 4 rebounds despite receiving more playing time than any other Villanova post player. By contrast, point guard Reynolds managed 3 rebounds, and reserve guard Reggie Redding had 4. Sheridan had 1 turnover and no steals, assists, or blocks. His defense was marginally better, but it was itself not without mistakes, and it certainly did not make up for the non-existant offensive effort. Why not give Casiem Drummond some minutes in the post, especially against Notre Dame's big, slow, lumbering front line? Will's best role is as a defender against quick, slashing, high-scoring post players, and Notre Dame doesn't have any.
    Grade: D-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 28 min)

    Cunningham's emergence as an excellent player on the low block has been key to the team's recent improvement. He continued his good offensive play tonight, scoring 11 on an (as always) efficient 4-7 from the field. He did take a step backwards at the foul line, shooting 50 percent tonight, including two absolutely huge misses with the game on the line. Though he performed well on the glass with 7 rebounds, including 5 on the offensive end, he somehow managed to commit 5 turnovers. Though he entered the game leading the 'Cats in steals on the season, he did not get any picks tonight. He added a block and an assist, but also committed 5 fouls and was disqualified. In short, it was Dante's usually efficient offensive game plus a lot of mistakes and bad fouls. Hopefully the foul and foul-shooting issues can be soon resolved.
    Grade: C+

  • Shane Clark (S, 19 min)

    Clark played an inconsistent, unspectacular game tonight; those two adjectives could also describe his body of work for the year, unfortunately. Shane scored only 5 points, shooting 2-6 from the field. He did not reach the stripe. He pulled in 4 rebounds and 1 steal, but committed 2 turnovers and 5 fouls. Those numbers just don't cut it for a starter. Clark usually excels defensively, but that was not the case tonight, as he was a step slow on the perimeter and ineffective in the post.
    Grade: D+

  • Curtis Sumpter (26 min)

    Curtis was still hurt tonight and maybe should not have played at all. Not only was he limping around on a bruised shin, he was possibly risking further injury by overcompensating for his hurt leg. He shot a dismal 3-13 from the field, missing several easy layups. He was 0-4 from the three-point line. One bright spot was his 5-6 performance from the foul line. He also led the team in rebounds with 10, and had 2 steals and a block. Sumpter had a great look at a three-pointer to tie the game at the end, but could not sink the shot. In short, Sumpter was bad on offense but surprisingly effective on the defensive end. Hopefully the leg heals quickly because we will absolutely need his offense againt Pitt.
    Grade: C-

  • Reggie Redding (22 min)

    Redding has played his way into the 7-man rotation and has been inking major minutes of late. The best word to describe Reggie's game is "smooth," with "cool" a close second. He makes few mistakes and glides up and down the floor. His defense has also been improving, and I am now ready to say he ranks with Benn as the team's best lock-down defender. Though Reggie did hit his first 3-pointer in conference play tonight, he has yet to find his offensive stroke. Redding was 1-5 from the field and a surprising 1-3 from the free throw line. He needed to hit all 3 of those free throws, as they came with under 35 seconds to play. Redding added 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist while committing only 1 turnover. When he gets his shooting on track, watch out.
    Grade: B-

  • Incomplete grades:
    Bilal Benn
    (1 min).

  • Did not play:
    Dwayne Anderson
    (CD), Casiem Drummond (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD), Ross Condon (CD), Andrew Ott (RS), Antonio Pena (RS)

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