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15 December 2008

Villanova bests La Salle

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/15/2008 01:36:00 AM
Villanova 70
La Salle 59
(box score)

#18 Villanova: 10-1 (0-0 BE, 0-0 B5)
La Salle: 4-4 (0-0 A10)

Next game: vs. Navy, 22 Dec. at the Pavilion.

Villanova moved to 2-1 on the week and 3-0 in the Philadelphia Big 5 with a win at La Salle. The Wildcats looked decent but not overpowering in the win, and it seems like the 3-spot drop in the latest AP rankings places Villanova correctly in the lower end of the top 20 at #18.

The Wildcats relied on hot outside shooting from its guards to neutralize the disadvantage of Dante Cunningham's foul trouble, which left Villanova's best big man on the bench for much of the contest.

Villanova jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first half, but played the Explorers to a virtual draw in the second period to win by just 11. A hall mark of a good top-15 team would have been to put away La Salle decisively, but that did not happen, and it perhaps means that Villanova has some work to do if it wants to rise in the rankings again.

See the player grades below (Starting with Scottie Reynolds) for special comments on the Villanova backcourt players.

Next up for the 'Cats is a Pavilion date with Navy, traditionally a cupcake game. Though Navy is at 8-2 on the season, KenPom rates the Wildcats' chances of victory at 97 percent.

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

  • Antonio Pena (S, 34 min)

    Pena received a huge number of minutes due to post-mate Dante Cunningham's foul issues. He shot poorly, scoring 5 on 1-6 shooting, but did dish out 6 assists. He pulled in 6 rebounds and had 1 block. He admirably did not turn the ball over once in his 36 minutes. Pena has a good basketball IQ and his shooting will come around soon enough.
    Grade: B-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 30 min)

    Reynolds has been struggling on offense lately, but seemed to find a bit of a scoring groove on Sunday night. Scottie shot 5-12 from the field and 3-5 from behind the arc to score 13. His assist total was down, at 2, but he only committed 2 turnovers. Reynolds was 0-2 from the foul line, which is unacceptable both for the misses and for the low number of attempts. I disagree wholeheartedly with Coach Wright's decision to move Reynolds to the point in the starting lineup. After two and half seasons, it's clear (to me at least) that Reynolds is much more effective when he is able to work off the ball, and when he has another small guard to help him with presses and traps up and down the court. The point is not that Reynolds shouldn't play the point; in fact he is a good distributor. The real idea here is that Reynolds will have to shoulder much of the Wildcat scoring load and play lots of minutes per game, so why further exhaust him by making him the only ballhandler on offense? In addition, with Scottie starting at the 1 and Stokes at the 2, Stokes plays more like a 2.5 or a 3, leaving Reynolds forced to guard the opponents' quickest guard. The result is that Reynolds has to run ragged on defense and then is continually harassed on offense with press and trap breaking, running the offense, and getting himself looks. This is too much for even a good player like Scottie. With another one-guard in there (Fisher), it leaves Reynolds free to initiate the offense off the pass in the half-court. This allows him to immediately take a good shot or find a good pass, rather than making the first pass he can as he would if he were the point. In my opinion, Fisher needs to be out there with Reynolds most of the time, mistakes or not.
    Grade: B-

  • Corey Stokes (S, 29 min)

    Stokes led the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points on excellent 6-10 shooting, including 4-7 from the three. In my opinion, Stokes should be seeing many more minutes. Why he was benched for the second half of the St. Joe's game for the thoroughly ineffective Shane Clark is a mystery to me. Against the Explorers, Stokes put up excellent numbers with few mistakes. In addition to scoring 18, Stokes added 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist, and 0 turnovers. Playing Stokes for 29 minutes is a start, but 29 should be near the minimum for Stokes. The coaching staff needs to develop Stokes in two ways: 1. Get him more time! He is a scoring machine, and the Wildcats aren't exactly a high-powered offensive team without him. 2. Improve his ballhandling ability. Stokes simply cannot put it on the floor. The good news is that this is a teachable skill. Dribble drills, 1-on-2 ballhandling in practice, and an emphasis on the dribble-drive are all ways that the staff could develop the McDonald's All-American.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Fisher (26 min)

    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. If Fisher cannot play effectively, the Wildcats are doomed against any team with a pressure defense, or any team that likes to run. God help the 'Cats against Rick Pitino if they only have one option at the one-guard. That said, 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. Against La Salle, Fisher scored 8 on 4-9 shooting, but missed his only three-point attempt. Fisher was a huge shooter in high school, so there is no reason he cannot find that touch again, In fact, to effectively run the "take-em" offense Wright employs, Fisher needs to be respected at the perimeter. Kyle Lowry got away with taking very few three-point shots, but Kyle Lowry was Kyle Lowry. Lowry also was the team's best three-point shooter in terms of percentage in the few times he did shoot the three. Fisher is not blessed with Lowry's world-class speed and ridiculous athleticism, but he is fast and should be able to score on the perimeter and on penetration. Fisher passed for 6 assists against La Salle, and had only 1 turnover. He needs to get to the line more (0-0 Sunday), and try to make more plays off steals.
    Grade: B

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 24 min)

    Cunningham's foul trouble severely cramped his effectiveness, but he wasn't having the best of games before that, either. Cunningham shot 4-8 from the field to score 9 points. He made only 1 of his 4 free-throw attempts, however. He excelled on defense, notching 4 steals and 4 blocks against the overmatched Explorers. He added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers.
    Grade: B-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 21 min)

    Anderson is back in the starting lineup, which I disagree with. Dwayne is the ultimate energy-boosting sixth man, so why not use him in that capacity? I am not advocating a reduction in Anderson's minutes; I just want to free Scottie Reynolds from handling the ball in the starting lineup. Anderson plays smart basketball but struggled a bit against La Salle. He shot 1-4 -- 0-2 from the three-- to score 2 points.
    Grade: C-

  • Reggie Redding (17 min)

    Redding played an efficient game, shooting 3-4 from the field and 1-1 from behind the arc. He added 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 turnover. Redding is at his best when he is playing smart basketball, in a supportive role, taking his open looks and making good decisions. He was able to do that tonight. The trouble for the 'Cats begins when Villanova has to rely on Redding to create his own offense.
    Grade: B+

  • Shane Clark (17 min)

    Clark played fairly well on Sunday. He led the team in rebounds, with 7, and shot 3-4 from the field. Best of all, he did not attempt any contested three-pointers, and committed no turnovers.
    Grade: B

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min).

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

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At 8:58 AM, December 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete - I can read between the lines of this post. Stop your Jay Wright bashing. Just kidding.

At 9:35 AM, December 15, 2008, Anonymous JT Mac said...

Jay is a recruiter not a coach.....Ross condon is a truck..!

At 11:59 AM, December 15, 2008, Anonymous Fact said...

I was doing the math Dante needs 94 points for 1,000. Scottie has 1,195 points and if he keeps up career average or even a little bit lower he'll reach 2,000 . If he has a monster rest of the season and next season and a couple of deep Big east and NCAA tournament runs, He has an outside outside chance to break Kerry Kittles' career record of 2,243. Not Bad. Shane could get 1,000 if he averages 20 a game for the rest of the season (not gonna happen). Fish is 92 points from 500 career, Stokes is 140. Reggie, Dwayne and Pena are sitting at 322, 313 and 324 repectively. Taylor King had 186 at duke but I have a feeling that he'll be a spot shooter when it all boils down to it.

At 1:18 PM, December 15, 2008, Anonymous Fact said...

those stats are as of Sunday before the game

At 9:20 PM, December 15, 2008, Anonymous Gregg said...

Interesting stats, I think that all 5 members of our incoming recruiting class could top 1000 points.

At 11:16 PM, December 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this blog can stop saying things will be posted on X date, because I can't remember the last time something was actually posted on the date mentioned.... nor does it ever arrive late.

We're all busy, but there's no need to state an update will be made even if you have the best intentions in mind to do so.

If you get to updating the blog, wonderful. If not, that is okay too. But it's frustrating to read posts about upcoming updates, only to find nothing.

At 1:37 AM, December 16, 2008, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Ha...didn't say how late Monday. Missed it by a few mins. Site is updated now with a very long set of player grades. Enjoy.

At 7:00 AM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The recap sounds like you just looked at the box score and spit it back to us, while offering your opinion on what each player's role needs to be.

Another Malcolm Grant mention. Another conspiracy theory (where was Stokes?!?!!!). TO clue you in, there are rumors he was sick. There are also ideas that Jay wanted his most veteran line-up in there. There is also the idea that he was too much of a liability on defense to be out there, no matter how much instant offense he could've been. He kept getting burnt on those screen and rolls.

Scottie going 0-2 is unacceptable? Those were both front ends of a 1 and 1 situation while we were up about 14 pts. Just like in the St Joes game, he'll make them when it counts. What was more unacceptable with Scottie was how he was getting some of his shots blocked with some serious authority. He looked a step slow, which would've been perfect to back up your claim about him having to defend the quickest guard and run the offense.

If you don't watch the games, spare us a recap. If you do watch the games, then give us more than a rehashing of the box score. There are other times that you can give your suggestion box on each player for Jay Wright. There are those of us outside the Philly area that want to know what happened in the games not televised, and this recap doesn't tell me anything I could not figure out on my own.

At 9:48 AM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well ... if you are going to bash Wright, at least in this post it is somewhat fact based and logical. Which doesn't mean that I agree with you.

Part of the problem - and this was a problem with some of your Grant analysis last year - is that there are a limited amount of minutes to go around. More minutes for Stokes and Fisher? Where do they come from? Redding gets minutes for a reason - his excellent defense. I guess it would almost have to be Clark. IMO he has been mostly effective in limited minutes. But whoever sits, essentially you are calling for a smaller lineup. Wright is clearly of the opinion that the current personnel don't have the skills to make that work. That seems to have been vindicated by last season, where the team turned it around when Wright made lineup changes in the direction of more size.

Now, Wright could be wrong; as I said, your opinions, while IMO wrong, area at least fact based this time. But at the end of the day, I'm going to accept Wright's opinions on this before I accept yours.

Of course, it is still tiresome that you don't even seem to understand or acknowledge that Wright does have his reasons, even if you don't agree with them.

At 9:56 AM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other thing to consider is that Stokes and Fished already are 3rd and 4th on the team in minutes per game, both int he 26 to 27 minute range.

So I'm iclined to think that calling your opinions here fact based may be bending over backwards to be fair.

Once thing to keep in mind - Wright apparently runs a pretty tight ship in terms of both discipline and in terms of his on court expectations (i.e., everyone plays D and plays in control). There are obviously both costs and benefits to this approach. What you seem to be doing, Pete, is ignoring the benefits and exaggerating the costs.

At 10:58 AM, December 16, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

Anonymous said...
"The recap sounds like you just looked at the box score and spit it back to us, while offering your opinion on what each player's role needs to be."

Well what exactly would you like?

At 2:13 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of issues with that posting:

(1) Villanova did not slide six spots in the AP. They were 15th and slid to 18th. They went from 12 to 15 in the Coaches poll.

(2) To say Villanova played Lasalle to a virtual tie in the second half is technically true based on the box score alone, but ignores what actually happened on the court. Villanova was up nearly 20 for much of the second half and the game only fell to 11 in the final minutes (when Frank the Tank was on the floor and the game had all but been conceded). Lasalle was completely unmatched for most of the second half, even with Villanova experimenting with alternative offensive sets i.e. running the offense through Pena as a point/forward.

At 2:26 PM, December 16, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

You are correct about the rankings. Will update with the correction.

As for playing to a virtual tie, well, that sentence was in the context of the final score! So the fact that they were up by 10 in the first half and only won by 11 is explained by only winning the second half by 1 point. I wasn't really trying to explain the quality of play there.

At 5:04 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

man pete, i dont know how you do it...take all this silly criticism from idiot nancys. i hope youre makin some money off this site!

At 5:08 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Adam j said...

nova should own next year....fisher needs to improve on his driving and stokes needs shooting lessons

At 5:17 PM, December 16, 2008, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Not making any money because not many people click on the ads (hint!!!!)

At 5:33 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

another negative villanova basketball post....i hate pete

At 5:37 PM, December 16, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

haha wtf?

At 5:47 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous imisskylelowry said...

"...A hall mark of a good top-15 team would have been to put away La Salle decisively, but that did not happen, and it perhaps means that Villanova has some work to do if it wants to rise in the rankings again..."


Do you recognize the parity in college basketball yet? Uconn played this team within a couple possessions for 36 minutes on a neutral court. Nova owned this team most of the game while on the road, and in a Big 5 matchup.

Syracuse just lost at home to Cleveland State, despite shooting over 50% from the field.

Louisville lost to Western Kentucky by 14 (and Courtney Lee is gone).

Teams, even good teams, can look flat. There is talent across Division 1. These are all kids, poor shooting and the inability to take care of the ball will lead to close calls or upsets. This is college basketball.

I'm not sure what you expect Nova to be doing. Let Big East play start before you doubt this team. There are plenty of people in the country who doubt this team for a variety of reasons. Occassionally it's okay for you to think the glass is half full, you are a Nova fan after all.

(hmm I can't believe I couldn't find a way to fit Malcolm grant into this post!!!!!)

At 5:55 PM, December 16, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

I just don't think this team is a legitimate top 15-team yet. That's all I was trying to say. The Texas game was nowhere near as close as 9, either, if you want to go that route.

At 6:46 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Chris Ford's Long Ball said...

I disagree with many things that Pete says, but I think the Pete bashing has gone way too far. People are being far to sensitive o the criticisms Pete gives. Unless you are Jay Wright's mother of course, then you can bash all you want.

Secondly, in alot of ways I agree with Pete's assesment that we are not a top 15 team yet. I believe we have the parts, but they just haven gelled together yet this year. When scottie and fisher actually figure themselves out we will be top 15, but the way we looked against Texas was downright embarrassing. It was the only test that we have had this year and we failed much worse than I thought we would going in (I thought we could hang and even beat them). Also this is not the NFL, there is no more parity this year in NCAA basketball than there was the year before.

At 7:34 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Lowry's D-Punch said...

I think talented guard play (small ball) generally allows teams to beat lesser opponents on a much more consistent basis than all around teams. Nova has free throw shooting down the stretch, speed (helps with boards/steals/fast breaks), and 3 point shooting to get them past the bigger slower teams. The problem is when those big guys are really really talented and paired with a decent guard or two.

Nova always plays fast because they are smaller and I'm not sure this team has a slow gear which will win them games. I fear the "not a top 15" thing is 100% valid because they will struggle against bigger teams that can slow them down (like Texas did and UCONN, PITT, LOUISVILLE, GEORGETOWN will do). I think the team is good but if they go 50% against the top 8 in the Big East I will be ecstatic.

I also agree people hate on Pete too much...and I have gone off on recent tirades. I was just tired of the Grant thing (which was out of control last year) and the transfer thing (just a very very bad argument...they may lose Sutton because of the level of talent coming in...who knows...it happens...guys follow playing time). Pete's good comments were getting consistently diluted by repetitive cheap shots taken at Jay.

I think Pete will make a comeback and is already doing so. Go Pete. Criticize a lot but be optimistic.

This post has been certified fresh by the Blogger Counseling Corp. "Making bloggers think like you since 2006."

At 7:42 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pete is such a hater....makes me want to vomit

At 8:15 PM, December 16, 2008, Anonymous imisskylelowry said...

I don't know if we're a Top 15 team or not, too early too tell for me. As of today though you are probably right, but I think Top 20 is just right.

I just thought the fact that we didn't BURY La Salle was irrelevant as to how good Nova is. Just as its hard to point to the Texas game to say how long a way Nova has to go.

We're better than last year by far at this point in the season, that's all I know. Last year we were consistently going down by 10+ pts and having to claw back with huge second halves. This year I'm seeing some reliable play and scoring in the front-court, with inconsistent guard play. We all know Scottie will bring it in the big games this year (just wasn't his night in MSG last week), and with Stokes living up to his billing as a money shooter, there's really no limit to what this team can do.

I just look at the top 25 and see many other teams with just as many question marks. Duke, Wake Forest, Tennessee, Purdue, UCLA, Tennessee, Arizona State, Baylor, and Memphis.

Lots of teams beating up on cupcakes and hitting bumps vs competition; may not be similar weaknesses, but they have their own. We're not far from Top 15, we're just too close to the battle to see the big picture.

Go Nova!

At 8:02 PM, December 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a friendly hello to mention a great place for everyone to chat about Nova hoops (PETE INCLUDED!!).


At 8:24 PM, December 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there seems to be a concerted effort to drive LGN traffic to vuhoops.com...pete, may you defeat these forces allied against you.

At 8:41 PM, December 17, 2008, Anonymous Gregg said...

He has had more comments for all of his posts than vuhoops, so I dont really think hes losing that many people.

At 9:04 PM, December 17, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

Ha, I couldn't care less if people visit vuhoops...the more sites, the merrier. Vuhoops is great about posting every little news tidbit, whereas I see my strong suit as providing in-depth commentary.

At 1:26 PM, December 18, 2008, Blogger stan said...

Anybody want to make any comments about the following games:

Temple, Marquette, Louisville.

At 2:17 PM, December 19, 2008, Blogger Whodat Kevin said...

Stan said...
"Anybody want to make any comments about the following games:

Temple, Marquette, Louisville."

God help us.

At 3:41 PM, December 19, 2008, Anonymous JA said...

With the addition of Cheek I think it's pretty safe to say 'Nova has at least the top 3 recruiting class, if not the best, in the nation. Is it just me though or does it seem like there's a lot less hype about it than when Ray, Foye, Sumpter, and Fraser arrived in the 2002 class? On a related note, until we see how well the current class plays, I would argue that they are only the 2nd best recruiting class in 'Nova's history, but they very well could move up to #1 based on results in a couple years.

At 3:57 PM, December 19, 2008, Blogger stan said...

Hey WhodatKevin,

You think JW and staff can come up with game plans that aren't too heavy on prayer?

At 5:10 PM, December 19, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

Louisville might beat us by 25... no joke... we can't break a press for our lives.

-- Negative Pete

At 6:35 PM, December 19, 2008, Blogger stan said...

I just know you posted this from Happy Hour!

At 9:18 PM, December 21, 2008, Anonymous Peter Cilento aka webmaster said...

I hate villanova basketball so much that I decided to make a blog about it

At 12:45 PM, December 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any preview for tonight's game?

At 4:27 PM, December 22, 2008, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Preview for tonight is up


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