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19 February 2008

Villanova outclasses St. John's

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/19/2008 12:00:00 AM

Villanova 60
St. John's 42
(box score)

Villanova: 15-9 (5-7 BE, 3-1 B5)
St. John's: 10-14 (4-9 BE)

Next game: vs. West Virginia, 02/20 at the Pavilion.

The big news at the Garden was not the fact that Villanova won, coasting for much of the game. Wildcat fans instead noted the return of freshman guard Malcolm Grant from his undisclosed location on the Villanova bench. Grant, who had been mysteriously benched for most of the month, saw 15 disjointed minutes of action in the runaway win over the Red Storm.

Grant's return should quell transfer rumors, but his benching remains uncommented on in any official capacity. Villanova coach Jay Wright kept Grant on a short leash, yanking him out of the game on a hair trigger. That Grant played at all is good news for his fans; keeping him benched for no known reason in front of his friends and family at Madison Square Garden almost certainly would have spelled the end of the Brooklyn-native's tenure at Villanova.

Villanova used a stifling defensive effort to hold St. John's to just 42 points, tying a season low for the Red Storm. Only six St. John's players scored.

The Wildcats complemented their tight defense with a balanced scoring attack, racking up 13 assists. Nine players scored for Villanova, including three in double figures.

The game was not perfect for Villanova. The Wildcats committed 15 turnovers and did not shoot all that well, going 43.6 percent on the game. St. John's at a quiet Madison Square Garden was not much of a test for Villanova, even though the win was a huge help for the Wildcats to avoid the disaster of missing the Big East Tournament there next month.

For an excellent post-game review with original efficiency research, check out GreyCat's analysis at Villanova by the Numbers.

Be sure to also take a look at Nova News and its take on the game, complete with tongue-in-cheek awards.

Wednesday's match-up against the West Virginia Mountaineers on campus will be a much better test to see if this Villanova team has truly rebounded from its losing ways.

Congratulations to an anonymous reader for most closely predicting the game's final score.

On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Malcolm Grant (15 min)

    Malcolm Grant fans can exhale a sigh of relief as Grant saw 15 minutes of court time in the return to his hometown. It still does not seem as if Jay Wright understands how to use the streaky Grant; Wright pulled Grant on and off the floor in a highly disjointed fashion that did not allow him to really get into the flow of the game. Grant, who saw his first significant minutes since Groundhog Day, looked fairly well on the court, but was off a bit offensively. He shot 1-4 from the field and had a nice drive for a bucket, but missed both of his three-point attempts. He committed 3 turnovers while mostly running the point, and dished out 1 assist. It was not the glorified return many pictured for Grant, but it was nice to see him back on the court at all.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 34 min)

    Anderson's emergence has really helped this Villanova team lately. Dwayne, once the sixth guard in the rotation, was easily the player of the game at the Garden. He shot 5-12 from the field to score 11 points, but struggled from behind the arc, where he was 1-5. Anderson led the team in rebounds, with 10. He notched 1 block, assist, and steal each, and committed 2 turnovers in his 34 minutes. If Anderson can find a more consistent stroke from the three, he could be a huge weapon for the Wildcats the rest of the way.
    Grade: B+

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 34 min)

    Cunningham put in a good performance in a game where he had little trouble asserting himself down low. Dante shot 6-11 and grabbed 6 rebounds. He notched 1 assist, 2 blocks, 2 steals, and no turnovers.
    Grade: B+

  • Reggie Redding (27 min)

    Redding contributed 27 minutes of solid defense and good ballhandling. He did not light it up offensively, but did shoot a respectable 2-4, and drained a three. He grabbed 3 rebounds, had 2 assists, and came up with 2 steals. He committed just 1 turnover. This is the type of performance that earns Redding minutes -- solid decision-making, good judgment, and hardworking defense.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 26 min)

    Pena returned to the starting lineup for his homecoming game. Like Malcolm Grant, Pena is from Brooklyn. Pena played well in his 26 minutes, but struggled shooting. He shot 1-6 from the field to score 4 points. He turned in an good all-around performance, however, grabbing 6 boards, blocking 2 shots, and passing for 3 assists. He also committed 2 turnovers. Pena is the Wildcats' best athlete on the block. Villanova's chances will be greatly improved if he can score and shoot more consistently down the stretch of the season.
    Grade: C+

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 21 min)

    Reynolds was plowing through a (for him) middling offensive game before turning an ankle midway through the second half. Though he did not return, the injury did not look serious, and Reynolds seemed able to walk without much discomfort. Reynolds shot 2-4 from the field, including 2-3 from behind the arc to score 6 points. He committed 3 turnovers and passed for 2 assists. There have not been any updates from campus on Reynolds's injury status, but it seems safe to assume that he will be good to go against the Mountaineers at midweek.
    Grade: C

  • Corey Stokes (18 min)

    Stokes finally turned in a good shooting performance. After missing three-point shots left and right (literally) this year, Stokes shot 3-5 from behind the arc and 4-7 from the field to score 13 points, leading all scorers. Stokes played well on the blocks, getting 5 rebounds, and handled the ball well. He committed just 1 turnover. This was one of the best games of the year for Stokes. If Stokes catches fire in the remaining six games, it would be a huge boost for a Wildcat team that often has trouble putting points on the board.
    Grade: B+

  • Corey Fisher (S, 16 min)

    Fisher followed up his disastrous 1-16 shooting performance at the Debacle in DC with a quiet game. He saw just 16 minutes of floor time and shot 2-4 from the field to score 5 points. He passed for 2 assists but had trouble handling the ball, committing 3 turnovers. Going down the stretch, it will be crucial for Fisher to be able to be a reliable second scorer, and to find the team a good shot if need be. So far this season, Fisher has played below the expectations of many fans expecting a savior from on high, but there are still six regular-season games and (hopefully) some kind of post-season left for Fisher to break through.
    Grade: C-

  • Casiem Drummond (8 min)

    Drummond lost his starting spot tonight and saw just 8 minutes of court time. He shot 1-2 from the field and pulled in 3 rebounds. I think Drummond has earned more minutes down low, but perhaps his size was not needed against the Red Storm. Look for Drummond to log more action against the Mountaineers and Huskies this week.
    Grade: C-

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min)

  • Did not play: Shane Clark (fatigue [?]), Jason Colenda (CD).

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