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30 December 2008

Fisher lifts 'Nova past Temple

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/30/2008 02:21:00 AM

Temple 45
Villanova 62
(box score)

Temple: 5-6 (0-0 A10, 0-1 B5)
#15 Villanova: 12-1 (0-0 BE, 4-0 B5)

Next game: at Marquette, 1 Jan. at the Bradley Center.

Villanova, back in the top 15 this week thanks to losses ahead of the Wildcats, opened flat and lifeless in the Pavilion tonight against Big 5 rival Temple.

The Wildcats were stagnant and ineffective on offense for most of the game, scoring just 24 points in the first 25 minutes. At the 14:34 mark in the second half, Temple was up by 8, a lead that represented fully 33 percent of the Wildcats' offensive output to that point. The game, while not yet over, looked like it was getting there fast.

Villanova was able to turn the game around quickly, however, once "reserve" point guard Corey Fisher began calling his own number. After a Scottie Reynolds three that pushed the 'Cats to within 5, Fisher accounted for the next 11 Villanova points, scoring 8.

Fisher wound up dropping 19 points in the game's final 14 minutes to tie his career high of 23 points in the game. Fisher's performance energized what had been a listless Villanova team, and proved that the prolific high-school scorer could put up points in college, too.

Fisher's performance aside, there is no question that Villanova got a tad lucky with this win. Villanova was totally confused on offense in the game's first 26 minutes, and likely would have remained that way had Fisher not heated up. The Wildcats got few open shots, and most of Fisher's 7 field goals were contested.

Meanwhile, Temple cooled off tremendously. Villanova should be commended for keeping Dionte Christmas, the Owls' leading scorer, off his game in the second half, but Temple was missing both open and guarded shots.

Temple went on an offensive drought for over 11 minutes in the second half, while Corey Fisher scored at will, and that was the game.

It was another ugly win for the Wildcats, who saw their leading scorers Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds held in check. Nevertheless, Fisher's explosion should finally earn him a spot back in the starting five, as this Web site has been calling for all season.

It seems that no matter how well a player performs in practice (Jay Wright admitted in the post-game press conference that Fisher was excelling at practices), he will not crack Wright's starting lineup until he lights up a game from off the bench. Fisher's benching for most of this year was absurd, and now we see why.

Give Fisher the confidence that he won't be benched or yanked for taking some shots, and you get the scorer who lit up OJ Mayo's team for 37 points two years ago.

Two weeks ago, this is what I wrote about Fisher, his playing time, and Jay Wright's propensity to sit him prematurely:

To me, Fisher is the key player for the Wildcats' fate this year. After losing Malcolm Grant, Villanova knew it would only have two ballhandling guards for the season. [...] Fisher needs to be out there, period. If he can't put in 30+ minutes against the Explorers, how can he be relied upon for Marquette and Louisville? My guess is that Fisher can be relied on. He was a major talent in high school, and shows flashes of brilliance at Villanova. In my opinion, Jay has Fisher on too short a leash. If Fisher cannot shoot, dish, and handle with the confidence that he won't be yanked at this first mistake, he will be tentative, and the worst thing a point guard can be is tentative. [...] Fisher was a huge shooter in high school, so there is no reason he cannot find that touch again. (Emphasis added.)

It's good to see Fisher getting the green light. After the game, Wright claimed that has always been the case:

I tell him [to take shots] all the time. I didn't tell him this time but I always tell him. He has had some good practices. He's a great kid and very coachable. I may be a little biased with that but he has had some great practices and what he did tonight is what we need him to do. We need him to be aggressive offensively. Sometimes he defers too much to the older guys and has too much respect. That's not a bad thing. We really needed him tonight.

In addition to his contradictory statements and circular talk, Wright's claim that Fisher already had the green light might be a bit hard to swallow for any Villanova fan who has witnessed Wright quickly yank Fisher out of the game after taking a single "bad shot." It has happened time and again, and most of those times I've winced in disagreement over the substitution.

It's nice to see Wright finally giving Fisher the vote of confidence, but where has it been for one-and-a-half years?

Congratulations to reader "Geesus" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

The Wildcats open league play at Marquette on January 1 at 2:30 p.m. Villanova time.

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

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 34 min)

    Cunningham insists that he is now a long-range shooter, firing up perimeter shots left and right. While some of these go in, this is not the offense a team of jumpshooters needs from its only big option. Today, Cunningham was 6-15 from the field. He opened up with some nice jumpers, but predictably cooled off as the game went on, until he was a non-factor in the second half. Cunningham can't settle for jumpers or take off a half on offense if the 'Cats want to compete against the likes of Georgetown this year in league play. Cunningham finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds, a turnover, a block, and 2 steals. His line in the box score would have been excellent for a shooting guard, but Villanova needs its only true post player to actually make a difference in the post.
    Grade: C-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 31 min)

    Reynolds was cold tonight (2-9 from the field), but did find a way to hit two very big three-pointers to finish with 8 points. He only turned the ball over once, and dished out 3 assists while adding 1 steal. Reynolds looked improved in the second half when he was free to play the two guard while Fisher was handling the ball. Perhaps if Fisher hadn't carried the scoring load in the second half, Reynolds would have shouldered some. Overall, it was not Scottie's best effort, but it wasn't a disaster, either. Big East teams will have their hands full if and when Reynolds and Fisher can get their scoring games going simultaneously.
    Grade: C+

  • Corey Fisher (28 min)

    As detailed above in the game recap, Fisher exploded tonight for 23 points on a phenomenal 7-8 shooting performance. Fisher was a perfect 4-4 from the three, and shot 5-7 from the foul line. He penetrated to the hoop at will, and ran circles around the Owls on the break. He was an excellent defender on the perimeter, disrupting the Temple offense and coming up with two steals. He co-led the team in assists, with 3. Fisher, barely six feet tall, grabbed as many rebounds (4) in 28 minutes as the 6-8 Dante Cunningham did in 34. This is the Corey Fisher we were excited about when he committed to Villanova as one of the top point guards in the country. Hopefully, Jay Wright will look to build on this coming-out party and give Fisher the starting point guard spot for the rest of the season.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Stokes (S, 26 min)

    Stokes simply could not get it going tonight. He struggled greatly from the field, shooting 1-7, and missed all 3 of his three-point attempts. His shot selection was questionable. The 3 three-point attempts were fine, but there were several ill-advised mid-range shots Stokes attempted after trying and failing to create separation with the dribble. The 'Cats need Stokes to be a scorer, so he shouldn't stop shooting. What he should do, however, is work extra hard coming around screens, getting in position to receive an extra pass, so he can take an open jumper in rhythm. Stokes finished with 2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover, and 1 steal.
    Grade: D

  • Reggie Redding (28 min)

    Redding took 5 shots, missing 4, in an effort to jumpstart the Wildcats' flailing offense. It doesn't seem like Redding is able yet to create his own shot even at the A-10 level, so he should stick to his much more effective complementary roles. That said, he shouldn't be afraid to drill an open shot, especially from the three, where is not that bad a shooter. Redding, typically, did the little things well tonight, grabbing 6 rebounds and passing for 2 assists while committing 0 turnovers. He also did his part in limiting Christmas in the second period.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 20 min)

    Pena has been quiet lately on the offensive end, but that hasn't stopped him from contributing. He crashed the boards tonight, leading the team in rebounds with 9. Unfortunately, Pena also led the team in turnovers, with 4, and attempted just one shot from the field. He finished with 4 points on 1-1 shooting, but he needs to get more involved in the offense. As the Wildcats' only option in the paint aside from Cunningham, Pena should do whatever he can to score in the post. If that means being a follow-up specialist, or getting the ball facing the basket (where he seems to be more comfortable), so be it.
    Grade: C+

  • Shane Clark (20 min)

    Clark was perfect from the foul line (4-4), but otherwise did little, in my opinion, to earn so much playing time. Clark is a nice option on the perimeter to bring in for perhaps 10 minutes a game, but 20 might be overdoing it. Clark shot 1-3 from the field, making his only theee-point attempt, to score 7. He came up with only 2 rebounds, and notched 1 assist, 1 turnover, and 1 steal. Clark has the tools to be a solid role player for a few minutes of relief at the small forward, but lacks the strength to bang on the inside and the ballhandling to play the swingman on the perimeter against Big East teams.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 13 min)

    Anderson is the kind of player that brings am offensive spark from the bench, a breath of fresh air, and a jolt of energy. Unfortunately, Wright insists on starting the senior, which neutralizes all of that. Anderson is a solid athlete with a good basketball IQ, and I think he should be seeing more than 13 minutes per game. But he is unquestionably better off the bench. Against Temple, Anderson was ineffective. He scored 3 points (1-2 from the field and the foul line). He had 1 turnover and uncharacteristically no other impact on the box score.
    Grade: D

  • Incomplete grades: None.

  • Did not play: Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD), Maurice Sutton (CD - RS?), Russell Wooten (CD).

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At 4:08 AM, December 30, 2008, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Testing new comment page. What do you think?

At 8:41 AM, December 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete: nice job on your game analysis and Players' grades. You reminded me why I come to this site.

At 11:12 AM, December 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to be honest, we might be one of the weakest teams in the top 25. we have no rhythm at times, no momentum. aside from dante's consistent outside shooting, we have no plays either! if fisher hadn't found his touch, we wouldve been doomed. do we all think we can hang with georgetown who just knocked off #2 uconn in hartford?! cmon jay, do something with this team!

At 12:13 PM, December 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete, stop bashing on Jay all the time. You don't know anything about coaching, so just stop.

At 12:46 PM, December 30, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

Whoa, who says I don't know anything about coaching? I coached a women's intramural team to the championship game! (where we eventually lost playing 5 on 4)

At 1:59 PM, December 30, 2008, Anonymous Rich said...

No way should Clark see more minutes than Dwayne.

At 2:36 PM, December 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, you probably coached an intramural team since you're not athletic enough to actually play...Have you ever shot a basketball before, blog-boy?

At 2:48 PM, December 30, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

Once -- at a carnival.

At 5:21 PM, December 30, 2008, Anonymous Geesus said...

Congratulations to reader "Geesus" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

this is the happiest day of my life

At 6:56 PM, December 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fisher is better as a spark off the bench replacing Reynolds. Reynolds and Fisher on the court at the same time won't cut it against most BE or elite teams.

At 2:56 AM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Lip said...

Pete you are THE MAN.

I bet you sunk that carnival shot with a well deserved 6 foot teddy bear out of it.


At 4:21 AM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This really is getting to the point of absurdity. Pete is now so over the top in his hatred of Wright, it almost (almost) appears as if the whole site is a clever parody.

What's baffling isn't so much Pete's descent into madness - sadly that happens sometimes - but the apparent continued loyalty of some of his readers.

At 10:49 AM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Jay alot, but he subs out way too much. It is like he is coaching a hockey team with line changes. I think that is why they have trouble getting into a rhythm.

At 12:21 PM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12:54 PM, December 31, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

@ anom 4:21 -- I wonder if I should notify my family about my 'descent into madness'! My biography is getting biblically dramatic.

At 2:39 PM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

scottie is NOT athletic enough to win us a championship...he is fat and slow..who's with me?!

At 2:44 PM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets go back to the other comment page, I hate this one... almost as much as Pete hates Jay Wright.

At 2:49 PM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Michael said...

I knew fisher had potential to be a leader..........

At 4:01 PM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Th interesting thing about Fisher's performance is that one can make a much more convincing argument that said performance is a vindication of Wright's handling of Fisher, rather than the reverse. It's only by looking at Wright through Pete's shit colored classes that the reverse is true.

At 4:23 PM, December 31, 2008, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Ha! Please! Fisher's excellent performance was DESPITE Wright's handling of him. Wright can't bench a guy who scored 20 points in 10 minutes, much as he might want to. (MG v LSU, RU, etc.) He's benched Corey at every other opportunity this year -- or have you not seen the games?

At 5:06 PM, December 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's benched Fisher because Fisher deserved to be benched - and Fisher has emerged a better player for it.

But really at this point it's like arguing with a lunatic. Please, Pete, seek help.

At 5:14 PM, December 31, 2008, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

I think you're the one who should "seek help," for projecting "lunacy" onto a debate about college basketball.


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