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18 February 2007

#14 Georgetown out-duels 'Nova

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/18/2007 04:11:00 AM

Villanova 55
#14 Georgetown 58

(box score)

#14 Georgetown: 20-5 (10-2 BE)
Villanova: 17-8 (18-8, 6-6 BE, 4-0 B5)

Next game: at #12 Marquette , 02/19 @The Bradley Center.

The Wachovia Center was rocking today as Villanova looked to punch its NCAA dance card against the #14 Georgetown Hoyas. The first match-up between these two teams, a 56-52 Villanova win in D.C. on Jan. 8, was a drawn out slugfest, and nothing less was expected today as both teams looked to keep win streaks alive.

The game lived up to its expectations. Though Villanova jumped out to a small lead early, the Hoyas closed the gap right before the half. Once again, Villanova built up a small cushion in the opening minutes of the second half, only to squander it to a Georgetown run. From that point, it was two fighters standing in the center of the ring dishing out their best shots. The last possession would determine the last man standing, and that's what it came down to.

Georgetown made its shots in the clutch, and Villanova didn't. The two teams were evenly matched, and the ball just went in for the Hoyas at the end. If Shane Clark's three from the corner had gone down instead of rimming out with 10 seconds left, the result may have been different. The fact that Villanova got such a good look is one positive to take away from the game.

One thing I would like to defend is Jay Wright's coaching job today. Several fans I've talked to are placing the blame for the loss squarely on Jay's shoulders, but in my opinion they could not be more wrong.

I believe this was one of Jay Wright's finest coaching performances. He stuck to his game plan of pressing three-quarter-court and then settling into a match-up zone to front the Hoyas' far superior big men. That plan kept the Wildcats in the game even as the Hoyas' high-powered offense attacked relentlessly.

Jay also used his timeouts perfectly in terms of game strategy and flow. His decision to take the air out of the ball sitting on a small lead in the final three minutes was correct. In a situation like that, with Villanova up a basket but overmatched in the paint, the clock is your ally.

The fact that the 'Cats came home with the L spoiled one of the best coaching jobs and pre-game preparation all year. Hopefully a similarly effective plan can be hatched for Monday's match against #12 Marquette, who have lost three in a row and will be hungry for a victory at home.

A note on Villanova's NCAA Tournament hopes: a win today would have placed the team into the "lock" category. Now the situation is a little more murky. To be safe, three wins out of the next four games should get us into the field easily. If Villanova splits 2-2, it may come down to how that record was split. A win against Marquette on the road will certainly be worth more than the assumed easy win over Rutgers at the Pavilion. If Villanova goes 1-3 over its last 4 (or dare I even suggest it it, 0-4), the 'Cats will need at least one win at Madison Square Garden to get into the NCAAs.

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

  • Shane Clark (S, 36 min)

    Clark led the team in minutes and had a quiet but decent game. His biggest contribution was his 2-3 performance from behind the arc; unfortunately that one miss was the potential game winner. He had 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 turnover. His defense was passable but he did commit 4 fouls.
    Grade: C

  • Curtis Sumpter (S, 34 min)

    Sumpter scored 15 today on 4-11 shooting. He was not as effective from behind the arc, going only 1-5, but was a perfect 6-6 from the line. He also led the team in rebounds with 8, in blocks, with 2, and in turnovers, with 3. Though he hit some huge shots in the second half, Sumpter did not even get the ball in the closing moments. Still, this is exactly the kind of game we need from Sump in the post-season.
    Grade: B

  • Mike Nardi (S, 34 min)

    After a string of good games, Nardi took several steps back today. He looked nervous and prone to forcing the issue, which is a deadly combination for a ball-handling guard in Jay Wright's system. Nardi scored just 2 points on 1-6 shooting, and was 0-2 from the three. He had 2 bad turnovers, and did not reach the foul line. He added 2 assists, 1 rebound, and a block. What won't show up the in box score, however, were the several missed opportunities he had. ESPN's College Gamenight even pointed out one in its highlight summary: at the end of the first half, Nardi forced a closely-guarded three with time left on the clock when teammate Reynolds was wide open to his immediate left. Had Nardi simply made the pass to the open shooter, there is no way that Georgetown's Jesse Sapp would have been able to launch his successful 65-foot three-pointer that proved to be the game's margin. On the other side of the court, Nardi's defense was fairly weak. Nardi fell hook, line, and sinker for Jeff Green's head-fake, allowing him to step up for an easy jumper that turned out to be the game-winner. Nardi is a senior and the team will need him to cut down on mistakes, step up up defensively, and make better decisions with the ball in the remaining games.
    Grade: D-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 29 min)

    Reynolds was back in his mid-season scoring form today, leading the team with 18. He shot an excellent 7-14 from the floor, including 4-6 from the three. He also led the team in assists with 4, and co-led the team in steals with 2. Despite shouldering the point responsibilities for 29 minutes, he did not commit a single turnover. He also added 4 rebounds. You simply could not ask for anything more of Reynolds today. He was huge in the clutch. With the team down 1 with 19 seconds left, he was able to penetrate and drew contact that should have been a foul. Still down 1 and inbounding the ball with under 10 seconds left, he made what would have been the game-winning assist, had Shane Clark's three gone in. It was the perfect look off the inbounds play. Then, down 3 with just 3.6 seconds remaining, Reynolds took the inbounds pass and turned on the jets, covering the length of the floor to get a good look at a three that just didn't fall. As that three was in the air, I was convinced that we were going to overtime, but the shot did not go down. Reynolds was the ultimate competitor today, trying to will the team to victory. Even as he was relegated to the bench with 4 fouls late in the second half, he could not sit still while watching the action. When he came back into the game at the 3:46 mark, he promptly hit a huge three to give the 'Cats a 4-point lead. Though Villanova lost today, the play and spirit of Scottie Reynolds will help bring home many wins in the future.
    Grade: A

  • Will Sheridan (S, 27 min)

    Sheridan played his best game in a while today. He excelled in his role as defensive stopper of the formidable Hoya front line. Thanks in part to Will's efforts, Roy Hibbert was limited to just 4 points. Sheridan was more involved offensively today, scoring 5 on 2-8 shooting. He had 6 rebounds, 2 assists, a block, a steal, and no turnovers. The block, in particular, was outstanding, as it occurred on a crucial defensive possession late in the game.
    Grade: B

  • Dante Cunningham (24 min)

    Villanova needs to get Cunningham back into the starting lineup. Can he really still be suffering from bronchitis? Why have his minutes been cut back? Cunningham was not as effective today as he was in the past two games. Dante scored just 3 points on 1-4 shooting. He grabbed 5 rebounds and added an assist, a steal, and a turnover. His defense was good, but we need him more involved on the offense.
    Grade: C-

  • Reggie Redding (16 min)

    Redding played his role well today, giving 16 solid minutes as Villanova went as shallow as possible in its rotation. Redding scored 6 on 1-2 shooting from the field, and was 4-6 from the foul line. He made some excellent passes but was not credited with an assist. His defense was generally good, and he co-led the team in steals with 2. He also did not commit any turnovers. I'll take this game from Reggie every time.
    Grade: B

  • Incomplete grades:

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

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At 12:43 AM, February 19, 2007, Anonymous greyCat said...

While I agree Mike (and others) made some horrendous passes and plays, virtually all came when pushing the ball into the frontcourt for a quick score. I suspect at that point in the game the staff wanted the 'Cats to press for quick scores and quicken the game pace in an effort to build a lead (or quickly retake the lead) and force the Hoyas to speed up the execution of their offensive sets in response.

There were also several situations in which the Hoyas did something unexpected on defense, and the ball handler responded by going "off script" (not follow the play outlined by the staff) in an effort to exploit the unexpected opportunity. Often it failed, but I can't fault a player for taking the initiative. Situational awareness is something you should want in the player.


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