2/20/2009 03:28:00 AM
#13 Villanova: 21-5 (9-4 BE)
Rutgers: 10-16 (1-12 BE)
Villanova avoided what could have been a soul-crushing defeat on Thursday by barely closing out the hapless Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a game that was much closer than many predicted.
Corey Fisher helped save the Wildcats with excellent bursts of play from off the bench, where he inexplicably spent most of his time during the game.
Maybe the Jay-Wright-apologists among our readers here can explain why Wright would -- for the majority of the game -- bench a player who had 14 points on 4-5 shooting, 3 assists, 0 turnovers in his limited and non-contiguous court time. Especially coming off a game in West Virginia where he was just about the only Wildcat to show up. I certainly have no idea.
To me, it seems like the opposite of what a coach would want to do.
Maybe if Wright spent less time worrying about whether his assistants' suits are tailored, and more time studying the game of basketball, Villanova wouldn't have been taken to the brink by a Rutgers team that lost by the same 10 points to a team called "Binghamton." At home, no less.
We'll have to hope GreyCat of Villanova by the Numbers generates some plus-minus data for this game, but I'd wager the numbers were heavily positive when Fisher was on the floor.
To me, giving Reggie Redding 28 minutes, and Shane Clark 23, while the best player on the team was glued to the bench is an insult not only to Fisher, but to Villanova fans watching the game.
The backlash against Wright's decisions is not only coming from my keyboard. Many posts on Rivals' Villanova message board also criticized Wright's playing-time allocations, some far more harshly than in the views expressed here.
Wright's stubborn and illogical coaching didn't cost Villanova the win -- this time. But when the Wildcats can't put away a truly awful Rutgers team in the Pavilion while Wright keeps his hottest player on bench, you know the team in its current incarnation is not ready for the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
Villanova is enjoying an excellent position right now, as the Wildcats are all but a lock for the NCAA tournament and are jockeying for a high seed. I just don't want to see it become all for nothing in March because the Wildcats' best talent is sitting on the bench.
When and how Wright's poor coaching will ultimately end Villanova's season is not yet known -- but trust me, unless something changes radically between now and next month, it surely will.
Congratulations to reader "Mills" for most closely predicting the game's final score.
On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.
- Scottie Reynolds (S, 33 min)
Reynolds led the team in scoring again, and along with Fisher and Stokes, totally bailed Villanova out of what could have been a disaster. He shot 5-11 from the field to score 21 points. He was a cold 1-4 from the three, but an outstanding 10-11 from the foul line. Being asked to handle the point for most of the game, he had 6 assists, but also committed 4 turnovers. He added 2 steals. I think Reynolds would be much better off playing the 2, but it's clear he is one of the best players in the Big East regardless.
- Dante Cunningham (S, 31 min)
Seventeen shots is too many for Cunningham, even if he is trying to do his best Curtis Sumpter impression. Dante's game is efficient offense, power rebounding, menacing defense, and running the floor well. If he does play professional basketball, it will be for those reasons. It will not be because he has "developed" an unreliable jump-shot from 17 feet. Cunningham made 5 of the 17 shots, and rounded out his box score with 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 steal, and 1 block.
- Dwayne Anderson (S, 31 min)
I am a big fan of Anderson's hustle game, but no way should he ever be shooting 3-11 from the field -- including a disastrous 0-4 from the three. The six rebounds were nice, but he should have been looking to pass a bit more often. In a perfect world, Villanova would start Cunningham, Anderson, Redding, Reynolds, and Fisher, and let opponents try to deal with the Wildcats' speed and scoring.
- Reggie Redding (28 min)
Not Redding's best game. He shot 1-1 from the field, which was nice, but didn't do much of anything on offense. Is Redding's defense that much better than Fisher's, to sacrifice 28 minutes of offense? I don't think so. He added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, and 2 steals. The 2 steals were nice, and I still think Redding should be starting. I just don't understand the rotation the way Wright has implemented it.
- Shane Clark (S, 23 min)
Clark was not too much of a liability on the offensive end. He shot 3-5 to score 6 points and was generally quiet and ineffective. He only managed to get 2 rebounds in 23 minutes, or 1 more than Corey Fisher had in 19. He was bad on defense, a step slow and repeatedly in the wrong spot. I just don't see what he did to earn 3 minutes against RU, much less 23. But maybe we shouldn't question Wright's genius: after all, we did win the game.
- Corey Stokes (22 min)
Stokes was scorching from the field, shooting 6-9 and 5-7 from the three to score 17 points. Why did he only get 22 minutes, when fellow swingmen Shane Clark and Reggie Redding both got more? Another Villanova playing time mystery! The only negative about Stokes's offensive game on Thursday was that he did not reach the foul line. But, man, what a shooting night he had. Stokes also had 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, and 2 steals. Villanova's future success looks very much tied to the Corey and Corey show -- if only they could get off the bench. It's telling that the two players who received "A" grades here managed to combine for just 41 minutes, when it should be more like 70.
- Corey Fisher (19 min)
See the main post above. Fisher was dominating in his brief appearance in the Rutgers game. He was unguardable, and the fastest player on the court by a significant margin. He brought explosiveness and unlimited upside to the offense. He handled the ball flawlessly. He was not -- unlike Clark and Redding -- a liability on defense. Fourteen points, 4-5 shooting, 4-4 from the line, 3 assists, 1 rebound, and ZERO turnovers -- what does this add up to? For Wright, it's 19 on-and-off minutes and a well-worn spot on the bench.
- Antonio Pena (9 min)
When I opened my fridge this morning, I saw Pena's face on a milk carton. The headline was "Missing: Have You Seen This Forward?"
- Frank Tchuisi (S, 2 min)
Frank got the start on senior night, which was a nice gesture. I am sure he has worked very diligently in practice during his four years on the team, but it is a shame that Jay Wright could not teach Tchuisi enough not to be a complete disaster on the court after all these years. Tchuisi has size and appears reasonably athletic, so his total basketball incompetence speaks volumes about Wright's teaching skills, or lack thereof. Against Rutgers, Tchuisi committed two fouls in two minutes, and was promptly sent to the bench. Forget incomplete, I've seen enough for a grade.
- Incomplete grades: Jason Colenda (1 min), Russell Wooten (1 min)
- Did not play: Maurice Sutton (RS).