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26 November 2007

Bad call costs 'Nova Old Spice title

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
11/26/2007 02:00:00 AM

Villanova 68
N.C. State 69

(box score)

N.C. State: 4-1 (0-0 ACC)
#19 Villanova: 4-1 (0-0 BE, 0-0 B5)

Next game: vs. Pennsylvania, 12/1 at the Pavilion

Classic coach-speak says one bad call at the end never costs you a game, because it shouldn't have been that close to begin with. Tonight, one could cite the Wildcats' atrocious 8-18 free throw shooting, or their 11 turnovers as the "real reasons" Villanova fell short of the Old Spice championship in Orlando, Fla.

It's not true.

In reality, bad calls do costs teams games, because each team is trying its hardest to win at any given point. It's not like the Wildcats decided to miss 10 free throws because they thought it wouldn't affect the game's outcome. For 40 minutes, Villanova struggled to win the game, and the probable win was taken away from the 'Cats by a terrible foul called on Dante Cunningham with four-tenths of second on the clock.

With his team trailing by one, N.C. State's Gavin Grant heaved a desperation three-point attempt that had no chance to find the bottom of the net. Cunningham was defending him, and upon seeing Grant take the shot, Dante threw his arms straight up in the air, never touching Grant. A foul was called on Cunningham nonetheless, and Grant was given three free throws. He made two of them, and after Villanova's hail mary try with less than half a second left was an achingly near miss, N.C. State won the game and the Old Spice Classic championship.

To be fair, the officiating tonight was uniformly bad on both ends of the court. It just seems that Villanova was on the receiving end of the last and worst mistake made. Earlier in the game, the officials seemed to miss at least one obvious goaltending call, and several extremely questionable fouls were called at crucial moments on both sides.

It's hard to be positive when the phantom foul call cost Villanova not only the tournament, but a resume-building win over a power-conference opponent, not to mention the Wildcats' heretofore undefeated record. There were, however, several positives to take away from this game.

First, the Wildcats showed great determination, never quitting in the face of adversity, and responding to every punch the talented N.C. State team could throw. Villanova overcame several deficits at various points in the game to eventually take an apparently decisive 68-67 lead with 2.2 seconds on the clock. Even after the shocking foul call that left Villanova trailing with nearly no time remaining, the Wildcats managed to get off a decent shot that nearly found the rim.

The game also saw the emergence of Casiem Drummond as a force in the paint. Matched up against one of the most talented front-courts in the ACC, Drummond dominated the glass with a game-high 17 rebounds, more than double the number of boards by anyone else on either team. Drummond also shot well and played outstanding defense. If Drummond can keep up this excellent post play, the Wildcats will be a legitimate national championship contender this year.

Finally, the Old Spice final marked the moment when freshman Corey Fisher, just four games into his tenure as a Wildcat, unquestionably took over a game. With superstar Scottie Reynolds playing alongside him in the back-court, Fisher turned in a breakout performance that was Reynoldsesque.

The Wildcats now have two guards who are demonstrably capable of putting their whole team on their backs, and if you think that won't pay off in the post-season, you haven't seen enough college basketball.

Congratulations to reader Jon Ambrose for most closely predicting tonight's final score.

Next up for Villanova is the opening of Philadelphia Big Five play with a game against UPenn at the Pavilion on Saturday night.

On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.
  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 35 min)

    Reynolds did not seem like himself tonight, especially in shooting the basketball. He scored 13, shooting 4-12 from the field, including 2-6 from the three. He also struggled from the foul line, going 3-6. He did, however, find other ways to help the team. He co-led the Wildcats in assists, with 4, and played an instrumental role in the team's early 1-2-2 press that forced several turnovers. The official line credits Reynolds with 2 steals, but he forced 2 or 3 more turnovers as well with his press defense. Reynolds did lead the Wildcats in turnovers, with 3, while splitting point duties with Fisher.
    Grade: B-

  • Corey Fisher (32 min)

    Wow is all you can say. I would not be surprised if Old Spice officials took a close look at Fisher after the game, to make sure it was not Kyle Lowry in his jersey on the offensive side of the court. Fisher had a clear breakout night against N.C. State. He drove the ball to the basket at will, and finished with shots you'd swear were impossible to convert.

    Fisher led the team in scoring with 21, shooting 9-16 from the field. He did miss all 3 of his three-point attempts. Fisher also led the 'Cats in steals, with 3. The real significance of the game, however, can't be found in the box score. Fisher kept his team in the game in the second half, leading the Wildcats on both ends of the floor. If there were a concrete moment when Fisher went from a freshman to a leader of the team, it was tonight. I am not saying that Fisher won't make mistakes or have a regression in the future, but based on tonight's performance, Fisher's future looks bright.
    Grade: A

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 31 min)

    Cunningham responded to the challenge of a difficult front-court assignment tonight by playing one of the best games of his career. Dante scored 16 points on 8-17 shooting, and pulled in 8 rebounds. He also scored what should have been the game-winning put-back with 2.2 seconds left. Cunningham has impeccable timing in following missed shots to put them back as layups or dunks. His defense was solid.

    The only knock on Cunningham's game tonight was his habit of continuing to take 17- and 18-foot jump shots that never seem to go in. I do not have access to the team's practice sessions, and it's very likely that the coaching staff wants Cunningham to be taking those shots. But they're not working, and they are costing the Wildcats key possessions. Since Dante is 18 feet from the basket, he can't help come up with any caroms on the low-percentage shot. If the idea is to force an opposing forward to come out of the paint to guard Cunningham out there, the shots have to start going in for it to work. On a team with six excellent jumpshooters in the rotation, the Wildcats cannot afford for their best post player to miss four or five 17-footers per game.
    Grade: B+

  • Reggie Redding (S, 24 min)

    Redding played another efficient game, and has really emerged as yet another threat in the back-court for the 'Cats. Redding scored 7 on good 3-5 shooting, but did shoot only 1-3 from the foul line. He handled the ball well, and made some excellent passes to co-lead the team in assists with 4. I am now convinced that Redding is the team's best passer.
    Grade: B+

  • Casiem Drummond (S, 22 min)

    Drummond' turned in a monster performance tonight, grabbing a career-high 17 rebounds. He also shot well, scoring 9 points on 4-9 shooting from the field. His agility, passing, and defense were all outstanding. Drummond led the team in blocks, with 2, and also managed to dish out 3 assists and make 2 steals.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Stokes (15 min)

    Stokes enjoyed more playing time tonight despite his continued shooting woes. Though he did not score in attempting two shots, Stokes did play well without the ball. His defense was passable, and he managed to grab a steal and 3 rebounds. Perhaps most important, it was Stokes who drove to the basket in the game's final seconds to put the ball near the rim, which allowed Cunningham to put in the go-ahead put-back. Stokes is too talented to be mired in this slump for too long, so watch out for a breakout game for Corey soon.
    Grade: C-

  • Antonio Pena (14 min)

    Pena struggled on offense tonight, scoring 0 on 0-3 shooting from the field and 0-2 from the stripe. He did grab 2 boards and had 1 steal, but many fans expected more from the redshirt freshman at this point. Hopefully Pena will show improvement as the season continues, because he could become a valuable contributor to the Wildcats' shallow front-court.
    Grade: D

  • Malcolm Grant (7 min)

    Grant struggled tonight after his nearly perfect game on Friday. He scored 0 on 0-1 shooting, and committed 2 turnovers in his 7 minutes. The performance tonight can be attributed to freshman inexperience. Look for a rebound game from Grant soon.
    Grade: D+

  • Incomplete grades:
  • Shane Clark (S, 16 min)

    Clark left the game late in the first half with a leg injury. He had been quiet before the injury, scoring 2 on 1-3 shooting. The early word around campus is that the injury is a strain, which sounds encouraging, but we need to wait for the official diagnosis this week. Losing Shane for any significant time would obviously be a huge blow to the team.

  • Did not play:
    Andrew Ott
    (CD), Jason Colenda (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD).

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At 7:33 AM, November 26, 2007, Blogger Jeff said...

Another State Fan here.

Shame the game ended up being determined by the refs. If that last make-up wasn't made, we'd be screaming about the refs as well though. (And yeah, it was a blatantly bad call)

Impressed by the team, fans, and coverage from the site. Hopefully there's a few rematches- maybe a Sweet 16 game or something. (Definitely a realistic goal for us, and an expected goal for you guys I think- you look like a top 16 team to me.)

Don't read too much into that 17 rebound performance. Most of State's recruits are still in the Sendekian mode- which means they are horrid rebounders. Hickson seems like he's a beast on the boards, but the reason of the team not so much. Usually State is a bit more efficient on its offense though- but that was more due to your guys being annoying on D. I think State might be better at ballhandling once Johnson is eligible (he has to sit out fall semester due to transfer)

At 10:02 AM, November 26, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good recap. Nice Job.

What a deflating loss...

At 11:26 AM, November 26, 2007, Anonymous Molo Tov said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:36 PM, November 26, 2007, Anonymous Michael said...

That was the worst call I have EVER seen. Cunningham backed up three feet and put his hands in the air. It was a discrace. That ref. should lose his license and be suspended for EVER from College Basketball. Aside from all the negativity Fisher had the game of his life. And 1's driving through traffic, he's the man! He beats that lazy fellow Antonio Pena any day, anytime anywhere. DOWN WITH REFS. DOWN WITH REFS. DOWN WITH REFS. DOWN WITH REFS. Great game by NOVA, Drummond really lit it up.

At 5:04 PM, November 26, 2007, Blogger Shel said...

As a Nova grad/fan, I'm trying my best to avoid criticizing the referees in last night's contest. But in all honesty, the boys missed a TON of free throws down the stretch. Last year, they were the #1 team in the land from the stripe. I'm not saying that they need to recreate that this season, but they HAVE to understand that every possession counts, including the freebies. Villanova makes two more free throws, and the game probably ends in a different outcome.

That said, Nova has no chance if Casiem Drummond doesn't play out of his mind. He is really coming into his own. At times, he does look a little lost on defense but he's moving his feet, he's getting around screens, and he's grabbinf boards. He still picks up one or two cheap fouls a game though - hopefully he cleans that up. The main difference is that he looks a LOT more decisive around the basket. I hope he begins dunking it as opposed to laying it in, but I'll take the points any way I can get em. Also great to see the playmakers passing him the ball when they drive and he cuts towards the hoop (i.e. they trust him).

At 7:13 PM, November 26, 2007, Anonymous Gregg said...

Clearly, this game should have resulted in a different outcome for a variety of reasons. Obviously, the ref made a terrible call, but he also let NC State get away with probably even more than Nova. There was a play late in the game where an NC State player clearly reached over the back of Stokes on a rebound. He also went on to make the shot, which was a huge turning point in the game. Also, MCcauly and Costner were pushing constanly in the post. Drummond could have had at least 21 rebounds if they were not.

To NC State fans: Nova's Clark was not in for the entire second half, and he was been one of our top starters this season. Hopefully, we will get a rematch in the round of 32 or the sweet 16. By then, our McDonald's ALL-AMERICAN Corey Stokes will be much more incorporated into the offense, as will Antonio Pena. (Michael, Antonio Pena is not lazy, and he is one of the most athletic players on the team.) We will be a much improved team in March, and we will be tough to beat.

At 6:29 PM, November 27, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the GM game live, and watched the NCS game in TV.

The officiating was abominable in both games. In the GM game one ref. in particular appeared to make most his bad calls against us; but it's hard to be objective when they are calling your baby ugly. Particularly in the NCS game since the last atrocious call was the immediate cause of us loosing the game.

That being said we could have iced both games by having average games from the charity stripe.

I really enjoyed the full court, press exploiting our depth in the NCS game. I suspect all our opponents will have to show they can handle back court pressure.

a VU fan/grad

At 10:03 PM, November 27, 2007, Blogger Charlie said...

Agree that it wasnt the right call but I dont think it was that clear cut. Dante definitely reached out as the NC state player started his shot and then brought his hands straight up. Once the ball was caught there was no reason for him to move when you're that far away from the hoop. Watched the replay a couple times and don't think think there was contact but still no reason to give the ref a reason to blow the whistle.

Nice to see Fischer come alive at the end there offensively, but definitely still needs some work on defense. He gets taken off the dribble very easily. Im sure that will come as the season goes on.

Drummond has been huge. Excited to watch him as the season goes on. Should be a 4 year guy too which is nice.

At 12:11 PM, November 28, 2007, Anonymous Gregg said...

Is there a replay available on youtube or google vidoes? And yes, I find it hard to believe that Drummond will not stay for all 4 years. He is the type of player that is a slow developer, but has great potential.

At 11:37 AM, November 29, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

Here's a video that shows the last play, but you have to overlook the context.


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