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07 December 2007


Malcolm grants 'Nova's comeback wish

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/07/2007 03:18:00 AM

Villanova 68
Louisiana State 67

(box score)

LSU: 5-3 (0-0 SEC)
#21 Villanova: 6-1 (0-0 BE, 1-0 B5)

Next game: at Temple, 12/9 at the Liacouras Center.

Did that just happen?

That was the prevailing sentiment tonight at the Wachovia Center as the clock neared midnight, and Villanova fans stood awestruck after the Wildcats completed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college basketball.

Trailing by 21 with 8:50 to play, Villanova looked dead in the water against the athletic LSU Tigers in the inaugural Big East/SEC invitational. When LSU's Terry Martin hit a three to give the Tigers their largest lead of the night at that 8:50 mark, many 'Nova fans headed for the exits.

You can hardly blame them. It looked bad for the Wildcats. Scottie Reynolds struggled. Corey Fisher couldn't do much. Reggie Redding was having his shots blocked left and right.

Enter Malcolm Grant.

Grant, the freshman point guard, was perhaps the least heralded member of the recruiting class of 2007. Checking in at the absolute low-point for the 'Cats during a timeout at 8:48, however, Grant went to work.

Grant sparked the 'Cats to life, dishing an assist and then a hitting a three at the 6:05 mark, the first Villanova trifecta of the game. Grant's triple brought the 'Cats to within 15 at the 6-minute mark, and gave some hope to the few remaining fans.

The Tigers fought back, however, and when Marcus Thornton tipped in an offensive board to make it 64-49 with three minutes to play, it looked like the Wildcats' effort would be too little, too late.

Trailing by 15 with 2:59 on the clock, Grant launched a three that found the bottom of the net, and was fouled. He hit the free throw to bring Villanova to within 11. A turnover by LSU gave Grant the opportunity to sink yet another three, and suddenly the 'Cats trailed by 8, and the Villanova faithful started to believe.

Just after hitting his third three of the game, Grant stole the inbounds pass and dished to a wide-open Reggie Redding, who laid it in, cutting the lead to 6 with 2:19 to play in the erupting Wachovia Center.

Grant would go on to hit seven consecutive free throws, bringing the 'Cats to within a single point. Down one with the ball and 10 seconds remaining, Grant drove to the lane and got off a layup that missed, long. Dante Cunningham tipped the miss in with 5.9 seconds remaining in the game to give Villanova its first lead.

LSU missed its desperation three-point heave, and the Wildcats escaped with the most improbable of victories.

Make no mistake, this was a gutsy win for Villanova. Sparked by Grant's offensive firepower and hustle, and by the fouling out of shot-blocker Anthony Randoph with four minutes the play, the 'Cats willed out a victory.

LSU, for its part, collapsed -- epically. No matter how much guts a team has, it cannot come back from a 15-point deficit in three minutes without the leading team making some major errors. LSU left the door open, and Malcolm Grant and his teammates came charging through.

If you haven't already, check out the box score. It's incredible. After scoring just 33 points in the first 32 minutes of the game, Villanova exploded for 35 points in the final 8 minutes.

In the game, Villanova was tied for 36 seconds, trailed for an astonishing 39 minutes and 18.1 seconds, and led for just 5.9 seconds. The largest lead for LSU was 21; for Villanova, it was just 1, and for less than 6 seconds, at that.

Take a look at ESPN's "game flow" chart below. It's almost as unbelievable as the game itself.



If you want to see the amazing comeback again (and again), you can watch it on ESPN360 for at least the next few days.

Even though Villanova did get the win, there were some troubling aspects of the game. LSU dominated for much of the game, and the Wildcat offense sputtered and nearly died. Villanova was only able to attempt 2 three-pointers in the first half, and finished the game a pitiful 3-9 from behind the arc. No Wildcat not named Malcolm Grant was able to put one in from long range.

LSU's defense was brilliant, and the 'Cats could not counter. LSU used its long, athletic wingmen to over-defend the perimeter, denying the Wildcats open looks for jumpshots. Villanova responded by driving into the lane, but more often than not, its shots there were blocked or hugely influenced by LSU's pair of 6-11 forwards.

Villanova's advantage in the backcourt was completely nullified. Leading scorer Scottie Reynolds was held to 1-8 from the field, and the freshman sensation Corey Fisher managed the same numbers. Reggie Redding was an even-worse 3-13. Amazingly, many of the Wildcat points came from big men in the post, an area where they were supposedly out-matched. Only Grant, Dante Cunningham, and Casiem Drummond scored in double figures, and those three accounted for 65 percent of Villanova's total points.

Another troubling area from the game was free-throw shooting. After leading the entire NCAA in foul-shooting last season, Villanova hit absolute rock bottom tonight, missing 9 of its first 12 free throws. Though the Wildcats did heat up from the line later in the game, foul-shooting is something the team needs to improve upon as soon as possible if its NCAA Tournament hopes are to remain viable.

Congratulations to readers Bits and Steve for most closely predicting tonight's final score.

Next up for Villanova is Big Five rival Temple at the Liacouras Center on Sunday.

There's not much I can do for player grades tonight. The box score speaks for itself. For the first 32 minutes, Villanova played some of the ugliest basketball I've seen in the Jay-Wright era. But the team managed to gut out the win and complete one of the greatest comebacks anyone has ever seen.

Malcolm Grant gets a solid A, and everyone else gets an A for effort.

Trust me, though, those first 32 minutes were not pretty; let's hope we do not see a stretch like that again this year.


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18 Comments:

At 11:13 AM, December 07, 2007, Anonymous GaryBuch4LyfNoVa85 said...

Villanova Just Wins Basketball Games

 
At 11:58 AM, December 07, 2007, Blogger garretthill said...

Great game.....one for the ages!!! One of the worst things about the game was Tyreke Evans was behind the Nova bench for the 1st half and looked extremely disinterested....and left just before the 1st half ended, not to return.

 
At 12:06 PM, December 07, 2007, Anonymous bpeach01 said...

A "solid A" for Grant? You're getting stingy in your old age Pete. Give that man an A+!

 
At 12:38 PM, December 07, 2007, Blogger Pete said...

A is the highest possible grade, remember!

 
At 12:39 PM, December 07, 2007, Blogger Pete said...

GarrettHill,

well I'm sure Tyreke watches Sportscenter... and maybe this will also assuage his worries about playing time, if he had any

 
At 1:09 PM, December 07, 2007, Anonymous Gregg said...

That's a really bad sign about Evans. If he left during the first half and did not return, that says something about his character. I'm sure the ticket was given to him by the coaching staff, and leaving without return is very disrespectful.

 
At 1:25 PM, December 07, 2007, Anonymous By-the-Sea said...

Most of that game was indeed just plain hard to watch. Congrats to the players for not giving up…

Add to the list of “troubling areas” that the Wachovia Center was half empty and very quiet – and this was before folks got tired of watching the ‘Cats get beat up in the 1st half. Additionally, you could see a lot of fans in the building wearing purple and gold.

As I posted before – ‘Nova needs to keep the games on campus. Traveling downtown and separating out the student section really kills the college home court advantage – the kind that helps intimidate opponents and dazzle recruits.

 
At 1:28 PM, December 07, 2007, Blogger Pete said...

gregg we don't know any of that for sure.

 
At 1:33 PM, December 07, 2007, Blogger Pete said...

by the sea

This was not an official nova home game. Nova had no control over where it was. And it didn't get its usual allotment of tickets. rest assured that our four Wachovia home games this year will be pretty full.

 
At 2:13 PM, December 07, 2007, Anonymous by-the-Sea said...

RGR the Big East/SEC Invitational thing - I'll make allowances.

But for opposing teams and recruits looking at 'Nova, Philly is home and empty seats is empty seats. Wish we as a fan base could have done better...

For the Evans conversation, all I've ever read about him indicates he is a very respectful and poised young man. I'm sure his decision is based on a host of things (recruiting meetings, academics, campus life, personal ambitions, etc.) and not just any piece of that game he may have seen. Good luck to him in his decision. Hopefully, 'Nova fits his plans.

 
At 5:36 PM, December 08, 2007, Blogger Dave said...

The good news is, Louisville just tossed their game to Dayton today. So while he left the Villanova game, at least Tyreke Evans knows we won, whereas his other top choice lost.

 
At 9:37 PM, December 08, 2007, Anonymous Gregg said...

I still can't believe that we won that game!!!!!

Good point, Dave.

 
At 9:39 AM, December 09, 2007, Anonymous Gregg said...

Will the Temple game be televised?

 
At 2:45 PM, December 09, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

It will be on ESPN U

 
At 3:11 PM, December 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?id=3144977

 
At 3:11 PM, December 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?id=3144977

previous link is wrong

 
At 3:21 PM, December 09, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

It will be on ESPN U

 
At 3:19 PM, December 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you remove "academics" from the list, and change personal ambitions to a more direct,"go to a school that will make me a lottery pick", you'd be right on.

 

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