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09 February 2009

Villanova rolls over Syracuse

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/09/2009 01:54:00 AM
Syracuse 85
Villanova 102
(box score)

#20 Syracuse: 18-6 (6-5 BE)
#17 Villanova: 19-4 (7-3 BE)

Villanova extended its winning streak to five games on Saturday with a solid victory over the #20 Syracuse Orange. The Wildcats add another quality win to their resume, and can now aim for higher seeds in both the NCAA and Big East tournaments.

Villanova overcame foul trouble throughout the game with an offensive explosion. The Wildcats, led by Dante Cunningham and an emergent Corey Fisher, jetted to 53 first-half points on their way to a 102-point output. Unlike its last game against Providence, Villanova also avoided any late-game collapse, and outscored Syracuse in both periods.

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

Next up for the Wildcats is a home remtach against #8 Marquette, a team Villanova has struggled with greatly in recent years. The talented Golden Eagles will be an excellent test for the surging Wildcats.

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

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 35 min)

    Cunningham had a monster game, tying his career high with 31 points on excellent 12-15 shooting. He was 7-12 at the foul line, which could be improved a bit. He missed a double-double by 1 rebound, grabbing all 9 on the defensive end. He blocked 1 shot, grabbed 2 steals, and passed for 3 assists. The only thing preventing an "A" grade for Cunningham was his sloppy ball-handling: Cunningham committed a whopping 7 turnovers. While that figure is mitigated somewhat by the high number of possessions in the game, it's still way too many, especially for a power forward. Otherwise, an insanely good game by Cunningham.
    Grade: B+

  • Shane Clark (S, 27 min)

    Clark played one of his best games as a Wildcat on Saturday. He put in 14 points on good 6-9 shooting, but remained ineffective from the foul line (2-4) and the three (0-2). Historically, Clark shoots among the lowest three-point percentages on the team, and really shouldn't be taking those shots. Clark led the team in rebounds, with 10, including 7 offensive boards, his speciality. He dished out 3 assists, notched 2 blocks, and committed 1 turnover. I still don't agree that Clark should be starting, but Wright seems loyal to his seniors, and Clark played a solid game. Let's hope he can keep it up.
    Grade: B+

  • Corey Stokes (27 min)

    Stokes looked more aggressive on the offensive end, and reached the foul line 8 times, making 7. He scored 16 points overall, shooting 3-9 from the field. Aside from attempts nullified by fouls, Stokes only tried one two-point shot, and all his points came from behind the line or the arc. He had a great rebounding game, grabbing 8. He notched 3 assists and 3 turnovers.
    Grade: B+

  • Reggie Redding (S, 26 min)

    The most important thing about Redding's performance Saturday is that he got over his turnover woes from the last game. Redding scored 8 points on good 3-5 shooting, including a wild, step-back NBA three that came out of nowhere. He rounded out his line with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 turnover.
    Grade: B-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 26 min)

    Reynolds struggled with foul trouble but still managed to score 10 points, albeit on 3-11 shooting. He finished with 3 assists and 1 steal, and handled the ball well, committing just 1 turnover.
    Grade: B-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 26 min)

    Anderson also was plagued by early fouls. One positive from recent games is that Anderson is taking more initiative to score. On Saturday, Anderson scored 7 on 3-6 shooting, with nearly all good shot attempts. He had a well-rounded line with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, and 2 turnovers.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Fisher (23 min)

    Fisher played an electrifying game, with excellent pressure defense and perfect ballhandling. Fisher makes his teammates better and gives the offense a dynamic flow. The fact that Wright still won't start Fisher and play him more minutes remains a baffling and frustrating mystery to me. Fisher scored 14 points on 5-9 shooting, but missed all 3 three-point attempts. He grabbed 4 rebounds, not bad for a 6-foot point guard in half a game. He dished out a team-high 6 assists, many of which were dazzling plays that would have been inaccessible to any other Wildcat. He co-led the team with 3 steals, leading to valuable fast breaks. Most important, however, was that in 23 minutes of handling the point, Fisher turned it over zero times. Not once. Get Fisher more minutes -- he should be leading the team in minutes. Get Fisher in the starting lineup -- it would set the tone for the offense the entire game. And most of all, get Fisher in there with Reynolds more often -- it would free Reynolds to play the 2, and give the 'Cats excellent ballhandling and scoring threats on the perimeter. This will be especially important against Marquette and its three all-conference guards.
    Grade: A

  • Antonio Pena (9 min)

    Pena was very quiet, but I still think he deserves more than a paltry 9 minutes. He did, however, get in foul trouble early, which explains most of it. He scored 2 points, had 3 rebounds, and committed 1 turnover in his limited action.
    Grade: C-

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min), Jason Colenda (0+ min), Russell Wooten (0+ min).

  • Did not play: Maurice Sutton (RS).

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At 12:52 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12:56 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, now anon 12:52. I'm one of Pete's harshest critics, but there is NOTHING to critisize in this post. Sure, he is on his "Fisher should be starting" hobby horse again, but he manages to make the argument in a rational, respectful manner, he doesn't dwell on the point, there are no gratuitious swipes at Wright, and overall his comments are quite fair.

At 12:59 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And honestly, as much as I think that (based upon prior discussions) Pete has an inadequate understanding of lineup construction, if you're ever going to argue that Fisher should be starting, it would be after a perfomance like that. Maybe not quite as spectacular as Pete says, but pretty darn good. (Though I can't help noting that one could make an equally persuasive argument that Fisher's performance, and the performance of the team as a whole, vindicates Wright's lineup decisions.)

At 1:26 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I continue to believe, as the previous poster stated, that a performance like that only validates Fisher's status as the sixth man. If he can come off the bench and deliver that kind of performance, that's a tremendous asset coming first off the pine. More minutes? Perhaps -- but you also can't really argue against starting seniors.

I also think your grade for Clark, in comparison to his other performances this season, is too low. That was clearly his best game of the year...a rol player grabbing 7 offensive boards merits an A in my opinion.

At 1:28 PM, February 09, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...


I can argue against starting seniors. I think seniors, in general, are way overrated in college basketball. If you look at the teams that have enjoyed recent success and Final Four appearances, they are dominated by underclassmen. I think you go with talent (Stokes or Fisher) over seniority (Clark).

Also, B+ is a very good grade, same as Dante got with his 31 and 9!

At 2:24 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...


That's a legitimate argument, and it's nice to see that as opposed to ... well, some of your prior posts, I'll leave it at that.

But that really gets us back to the issue of lineup construction. You seem to assume that the starters should be the five best players. That isn't necessarily true. I've previously mentioned some of the reasons why someone like Clark should start (matchup issues, size issues, having a good scorer off the bench to avoid a let down when the starters come out for a breather, etc.); I'd be interested to see you confront those issues head on.

Looking at your line-up disputes with Wright over the past 2 years, you tend to favor the smaller players over the bigger players. Now, to the extent that (with some obvious exceptions) Nova's most skilled players are guards and swingmen that makes a certain amount if sense, but you seem to entirely ignore the issue of size. The fact that Wright was very successful 3 years ago with an unusually samll line up, doesn't mean that that is always the best option. There are good reasons why team size and team success are highly correlated. (And I've also never heard you respond to the fact that the team took off last year when Wright went with a bigger lineup. Was that just a coincidence?

And as good as Nova was against Syracuse with Fisher in the lineup, they were damn good starting off with Clark in the lineup as well. Bottom line, why mess with success?

At 2:26 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also Pete, the contrast between this sort of post and the kind of post which generates negative comemnts is pretty dramatic. There is nothing wrong with voicing disagreements with the coaching decisions. Just keep it logical, respectful, and proportionate.

At 2:37 PM, February 09, 2009, Blogger Pete said...

Because I think you're defining "success" as "whatever Wright happens to be doing" -- i.e. it's a retroactive definition. Was anyone calling for Clark to start before Wright started him? I really doubt it. Wright's fiddled with the lineup all season -- Redding, DA, Pena, Fisher, Clark, Stokes; these are all players who have moved in and out of the starting lineup. Is there any rhyme or reason for that shuffling? It looks to me like Wright is just going with whoever had a good game last time. That doesn't make sense.

Another issue is that success is binary on a per-game basis -- win or lose. That's the only measurement you're talking about with success, I think. Lost in that is the fact that we could perhaps be a better team with a different lineup, and that disparity could manifest itself in a loss to a team we could have beaten.

As for favoring smaller lineups, I admit it, I do. I'd rather a player who can do multiple things than a stiff who has size. Sure, Clark had some nice put backs last game, but you have to admit he has been hopeless on offense all season. So take someone like Fisher, who isn't starting, and he grabs 4 rebounds in 23 minutes, and also gives us assists, points, and ballhandling. I think that makes up for size. Look at the best teams in the country this year. Look at Uconn, which often plays THREE small point guards at the same time. Look at Marquette and Louisville and Carolina. These are the teams we are going to have to beat to advance in the NCAAs, and the way to beat them is with ballhandling and ball movement....not clumsy offensive rebounds that anyone could grab.

As for the scorer off the bench, I've been saying for two years that should be Dwayne Anderson. He brings size, length, explosiveness, and scoring from the bench -- and another benefit is that he can play three positions. And what about Stokes? He is a textbook off-the-bench scoring guy a la Rashard Anderson 2006.

Right now, I would start

First off bench would be Stokes, then Dwayne, then Clark.

And when I say "start," I also mean play the most minutes, open the second half, and be on the court in crunch time, etc.

At 2:38 PM, February 09, 2009, Blogger Pete said...

Ha, I am not sure what I am doing differently with this post than prior. I think I have backed up all my disagreements with evidence or logic-based arguments; otherwise what would have been the point of writing about them? But thanks for your compliments.

At 4:19 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you are a big fan of Fisher at the 1, Pete, and while I agree he has looked good recently with ball handling, throughout the year Scottie has been better, at least according to one measure. Kenpom has Scottie at 18.7% on turnover-rate(% of possessions by the player that result in a turnover.) and Fish at 22%. More numbers at: http://kenpom.com/team.php?team=Villanova.

While Ken admits its not perfect(http://kenpom.com/blog/index.php/weblog/help_with_team_page/), it still is a fairly significant difference, which is maybe why Jay is not playing him at PG so much...

At 8:25 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Adam J said...


At 11:00 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous imisskylelowry said...

This post/recap is much different. It's rationale, it creates debate versus heated argument. There is no 'venom' in your words.

Keep it up!

At 12:37 AM, February 10, 2009, Anonymous Papa Smurf said...

Peter Cilento (Blogger, 918 Words)

Pete seems to have written a quality post for this game after struggling through the beginning of the season. The most important thing about this post is that it seems to have won over the anons. They are a tough crowd to please, as they drank the kool-aid several years ago. Actually, I think they have been pacified by the teams performance. With us doing well, they don't feel the need to be so defensive. Keep up the good work Pete.
Grade: A-

At 12:56 AM, February 10, 2009, Blogger Pete said...


At 10:05 AM, February 10, 2009, Blogger Publisher said...

Hello, Pete-

First of all, I really enjoy reading your stuff.

Keep up the great work on this blog... I'll look forward to reading your recap for Marquette. Also, it's great that you collect the preview links here on one post.

Here are some details and thoughts on your grading system. Personally, I like the idea of assigning each player a grade for each game.

Cunningham's B+:

I understand that you're making a valid point about the seven turnovers. If he were a point guard, and thus his turnovers were often steals (i.e., turnovers that usually lead to easy baskets in transition), I'd say that the B+ was justified.

However, this is still a player who's arguably the most improved player in the entire conference from last season. He dropped 31 points and had nine rebounds - on a top 20 team, no less. So I'd have to recommend an A on this one.

Fisher's A:

I completely agree with you on that one. Fisher had 14 pts, four rebounds and six assists in 23 minutes. If he had played, let's say, 30 minutes as a starter, those numbers would be even more impressive, if projected onto a 30 minute contest. I agree with you that he should be starting.

The B+s to Redding and Reynolds: Redding chipped in with a significant contribution across the board. By Reynolds standards, it wasn't a memorable performance. Had the rest of them not had superb games, his struggling from the floor might have doomed the team. But he picked a good day to have a subpar day - a day when most of his teammates were turning in strong performancces. So I agree with both of those grades.

Pena's C-...

I would go higher with that grade. Here's my reasoning - he's a role player. He played nine minutes. If you multiply that by three, to get a clearer picture to see how he would have done if he had played 27 minutes or so... you're looking at six points, nine boards. That's great off the bench. Not a lot of teams have bench players that can come off the bench and both score and rebound. Obviously, I don't think that he needs an A or a B+ for this performance, but I'd certainly go with a B, or at worst, a C+.

Clark's B+:

I agree 100% with that grade.

BTW - I understand why you don't think Clark should be starting, but his signal contribution (and one which you had specifically mentioned) is his ability to crash the boards on the offensive end. When you combine that with his defense, he really makes the team better.

Anderson's B...

I agree with that grade. I think that - as you pointed out - you look at his box score line and see how he contributed in each area...

Stokes's B+...

He had 16 and 8 in 27 minutes. Also, if I remember correctly, some of those 3s were very distant 3s, and it forced Syracuse to keep an eye on him for that reason, opening doors for everyone else.

The incompletes to Tchuisi, Colenda and Wooten-

I was very disappointed that Wright waited until under a minute to go - with a 17 point lead, at home - to put them in. There was absolutely no reason not to let them play the two final minutes, with the game out of reach. They let Redding dribble out the shot clock while they were at the scorer's table. VU should have called a timeout just to sub in that situation. These practice players work really hard to improve the team and they shouldn't be treated so shabbily (at least that's my two cents on the matter.

So those are my thoughts..

Naturally, I'd be curious to hear your reaction to any/all of the above... so I'll check back to see if you've had a chance to reply yet...

Go Wildcats!

At 1:23 PM, February 10, 2009, Blogger Pete said...

Very nice comments, Publisher... I agree with almost everything you're saying.

One response to Cunningham -- if the grade were for the season cumulatively, it would be an A. I just really hate turnovers. I can't give anyone an A with seven turnovers. Would have been interesting if he had scored 50 with 7 TOs because I'm not sure I could have given it to him even then.

I agree the walk-ons should have gotten in a little earlier, but I think running out the shot clock is OK. It's more respectful to the opponent than calling a timeout.

It would be great if you could review my grades after every game, if you have a chance. Nice job, again.

At 1:36 PM, February 10, 2009, Blogger Publisher said...

Hello, Pete-

Thanks for the compliment - it's good to hear. Certainly, I can review your player grades after every game. That's no problem (and it's also very interesting).

I thought you might be interested in reading my preview for Marquette. I have all of the links for the other VU blog previews noted prominently in the beginning, plus Cracked Sidewalks (I agree, great Marquette site). Here's the URL:


If you get a chance to read it, please let me know what you think.

Go Wildcats!

At 1:52 PM, February 10, 2009, Blogger Pete said...

Wow... didn't know Villanova Viewpoint was back. I'll add it to the Villanova Blogs links.

At 4:47 PM, February 10, 2009, Blogger Publisher said...

Hello, Pete-

Thanks for including my preview, in your list above, as well as for putting Villanova Viewpoint in your links.

I'll look forward to seeing the grades you assign for this evening's contest - which hopefully, will be our sixth straight victory.


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