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14 March 2009

Pitino puts on free coaching clinic for Jay Wright

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
3/14/2009 02:20:00 AM
Louisville 69
Villanova 55
(box score)

#5 Louisville: 27-5 (18-2 BE)
#10 Villanova: 26-7 (14-6 BE)

Sometimes, it's just nice to watch a master at work -- even if the master is carving up your favorite basketball team like a sushi chef working on some rapidly spoiling fish.

On Friday night, Rick Pitino was that master, and he made Jay Wright his unwilling apprentice. Once again, Pitino showed why he was one of the top coaches in basketball history, official Big East awards hardware be damned.

Trailing by eight at the half, Pitino calmly gave a brief halftime interview to ESPN, then went inside the locker room to make the crucial adjustments. Jay Wright is very good at the media-friendly first part; experience is showing he may have to work on the latter issue a bit.

For the second game in as many days, Villanova collapsed epically in the second half. Just when you thought that it could not get any worse after Villanova surrendered a 16-point lead in the final 20 minutes of the Marquette game, the Wildcats allowed a similar 15-point swing against Louisville -- in under five minutes.

Villanova went from up eight to down seven in the first five minutes of the second period. In a game sandwiched at Madison Square Garden between two Herculean efforts from the Syracuse Orange spanning four halves and seven overtimes, Villanova quickly accepted its fate and folded before even thirty minutes of playing time had elapsed.

As an eternal optimist when it comes to Villanova basketball, I usually save the "game over" comments and text messages for when the game is truly out of reach, a tipping point that had to be re-calibrated after the Wildcats made up 15 points in two minutes against LSU last year.

Not tonight. It was clear that as soon as Louisville made its run, and then prematurely extinguished the Wildcats' response, that Villanova was done. Game over.

Some other fans quickly attributed the team's failure to "exhaustion," an argument that usually smacks of absurdity, but seems especially ridiculous considering Syracuse played the equivalent of three basketball games in 26 hours on the same court -- and won, too.

No, the reason Villanova was beaten so soundly and so thoroughly tonight had less to do with exertion than with preparation. The Wildcats were not ready to take the floor. Whatever plan Wright and his staff cooked up was totally obsolete by the time the halftime clock expired.

Villanova played right into Louisville's hands. First, the 'Cats had no effective plan to deal with -- surprise! -- Rick Pitino's world-famous press. Indeed, Villanova was forced to burn a timeout on its very first possession when Shane Clark was unable to inbound the ball after the game's first basket. That, in a word, is embarrassing.

It's not like Louisville's press worked to perfection on that first play: several Wildcats just stood around on the inbound. Were they not expecting Rick Pitino to press? That's like being surprised to learn that bears shit in the woods.

Second, Villanova left home on the defensive perimeter, time and time again, allowing Louisville to rotate the ball for open shots.

Despite the early signs of poor preparation, Villanova managed to eke out an eight-point lead in the first 20 minutes, largely because the Cardinals could not connect on their perimeter looks.

In the second half, two things happened that quickly turned the game. One, Louisville finally started making its open looks. Two, Villanova completed its complete devolution into a team that cannot handle the ball under pressure -- under any circumstances.

Villanova turned the ball over 23 times, often when the ball was not even being defended. A few times just the threat of pressure caused this ill-prepared Villanova team to throw the ball away.

Even when Villanova didn't turn it over, the offense was often rushed and pathetic. The Wildcats offered up a few "air-ball turnovers," or shots that have so little chance to go in they should just be counted as official turnovers.

You'd think after suffering from the full-court pressure in Villanova's home loss to Louisville earlier this season, Wright and his staff would concoct a few tricks to ease the pressure.

Well, if they did, it did not show tonight. Villanova absolutely withered under the Cardinal pressure, and put up little resistance on the defensive end, too.

Note to Wright and co.: Pitino does not hold a monopoly on the press. It is fully legal, even advisable, to respond to pressure with pressure of your own -- at least if your team is conditioned well enough to perform it.

Another perhaps faulty assumption the astute observer might make is that after seeing how frustrated the Cards became on offense when they weren't able to get open perimeter looks off the second pass, the Villanova staff would emphasize staying at home on the perimeter in the second period.

Pitino himself even admitted it at the half and after the game. He said his team suffers when forced to go one-on-one, and thrives when it can make the extra pass on the outside for a better look.

So why did Villanova's wing players collapse nearly every time in the second half, allowing jumper after jumper to swish through the net, erasing any hopes for the first Villanova Big East championship of this millennium?

The fact is that Louisville was better coached, better conditioned, and better prepared than the Wildcats, and that let the Cardinals turn an 8-point deficit into a 14-point win rather easily in a single half.

After the game, Wright praised Pitino's style. "We knew this was going to be tough when you're playing the Big East champions," Wright said. "I love how they play. "

I love how they play, too, Jay. My only hope is that maybe you were taking notes.

Congratulations to reader "Pretty Toney" for most closely predicting the final score.

Villanova now awaits its seed and first-weekend location, to be determined on Sunday night by the all-powerful NCAA selection committee.

My guess is that Villanova will be a #3 seed slated to play at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, which would mean its next game will be on Thursday against a #14 seed automatic-bid winner from a small conference.

Hopefully, Villanova will use the intervening week to get its act together enough to make a nice tournament run.

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 38 min)

    Just an awful night for Reynolds. He could not find the bottom of the net (1-6) and missed all 3 of his three-point attempts. He committed a whopping 6 turnovers. The only things saving Reynolds from the dreaded "F" are his 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. Reynolds was hounded on Friday by Louisville's pressure defense, but he will have to pick it up if the Wildcats want to play beyond next weekend.
    Grade: D-

  • Reggie Redding (S, 32 min)

    Despite Thursday's clutch finish, I've noticed that Redding has the tendency to either choke or disappear in big moments. He did a little bit of both Friday night, emerging from second-half obscurity to miss two key free throws that would have brought the 'Cats within 5 and completed a 5-0 Villanova run. Redding was 1-3 from the field, and an inexcusable 1-4 from the foul line. At least he didn't have any turnovers. Redding added 6 rebounds but just 1 assist -- so much for Jay Wright's designation of Redding as the team's "best playmaker."
    Grade: D

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 29 min)

    Anderson shot relatively well while his teammates struggled. He often benefited from an off-balance Cardinals defense -- at least when the Wildcats managed to get the ball across halfcourt. Anderson was able to connect on some nice jumpers while shooting 5-8 overall, including 2-4 from the three. He added 5 rebounds and 2 assists. His decent shooting night was sullied, however, by his 4 turnovers.
    Grade: C+

  • Corey Fisher (26 min)

    Fisher shot well on Friday but simply could not take care of the ball. Seven turnovers...ugh. Here is where I can't blame the loss entirely on the coaching. While it's true that Fisher had an uphill battle to break the Cardinal pressure without (seemingly) much help from the sidelines, there still is no excuse for him to throw the ball away so many times. Fisher shot 4-8 from the field, including a good 3-5 from the three. He was a perfect 3-3 from the line, as well. He dished out 3 assists, grabbed 2 rebounds, picked up 2 steals, and scored 14 points. Very decent numbers, except for the 7 turnovers.
    Grade: D+

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 24 min)

    Cunningham had a very nice first half, but then disappeared in the second, mired by foul trouble. I don't know why he sat for so long in the second half -- what was the worst that could happen, Jay? We were already getting crushed; so what if Dante fouls out? In his 24 minutes, Cunningham played well. He shot 5-11 from the field, and was a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. He pulled in 9 boards and committed just 1 turnover. The foul trouble, however, was killer, because Cunningham was such a big part of the team's offense.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Stokes (23 min)

    Stokes couldn't find the stroke from the three (1-5) or from the field in general (1-9) tonight. He did pull in 6 boards, but he committed 2 turnovers, and did not collect any steals, assists, or blocks.
    Grade: D

  • Shane Clark (S, 21 min)

    Just a dreadful night for Clark. Airballs (plural.) Two big, memorable turnovers. Just 2 rebounds in 21 minutes. Clueless ball handling. Bad inbounding. Clark shot 0-6 from the field, but was a decent 5-6 from the foul line. Not enough to move the grade up from the floor, though.
    Grade: F

  • Antonio Pena (6 min)

    Pena missed his only shot and collected just 1 rebound in 6 minutes. He didn't get much of an opportunity tonight, but he did very little in the brief time he was out there.
    Grade: D

  • Incomplete grades: Russell Wooten (1 min).

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

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At 9:29 AM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note to all: If we ignore this type of ridiculousness, Pete will slowly fade away into obscurity. We all understand that Coach Wright might have coached a bad game, and he has in the past. But all coaches do. We do not watch other teams as intently as we watch Villanova every game, so it is not as obvious.

This will be my last post on this agenda driven blog. I plead with all of you as well to allow it to die a slow death.

At 9:44 AM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Specialk '73 said...

Pete called it as he saw it and, from this long -time, loyal Nova hoops fan - pretty much the way it was. Smacked of complacency instead of intensity with predictable result. Happened to the '85 team before the tournament at Pitt and Massamino benched the starting five.

I note a lot of ad hominem attacks about Pete on this site. What are you all quiche eating, liberal, politically correct whimps! He is entitled to freely express his opinion. You don't like it? Rebutt it, don't read it or go back to your politically correct girl friends.

Veritas vos liberabit.

At 10:28 AM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 10:29 AM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just waiting in the wings for a loss like this to happen so that you could mock the BE COY award.

#1 is right. Ignoring this garbage.

At 10:39 AM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:45 AM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like how Pete makes multiple user names to defend himself... like on the Rivals message board.... What an awesome name Pete... RickBMW

At 11:49 AM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Pretty Toney said...

It's Pretty Toney, not Pretty Tony. But I'm pretty much the shit.

At 12:30 PM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:34 PM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys are pathetic, just bashing pete for the sake of bashing pete. Personally I would prefer you "ignore" this website as you threaten, so that those of us who prefer to visit this website for it's well written articles and helpful information can do so without having to sort through your personal vindictive jabs at the site manager.
-Patrick C. '04

At 12:40 PM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

#9 = Pete

At 12:43 PM, March 14, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

For the record, I was not banned from Rivals. I chose to stop posting there.

At 12:44 PM, March 14, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

And I have never posted on here except under this name.

At 2:32 PM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:40 PM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck off Pete you stupid, evil piece of shit St. Joe's fan.

At 2:43 PM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

#9, aka Pete - NO ONE visits this site for "well written articles and helpful information." There is none. We visit to watch the train wreck and to make Pete's life even more miserable than it currently is so that he will stop libeling Wright and the VU program - and hopefully give up on this fifth rate web site.

At 6:36 PM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous SpecialK '73 said...

I find it helpful to read the site by simply skipping over any comment from anonymous. Clearly either a St joe's fan or another girlie man.

It strikes me that it must be Obama administration folks attacking Pete as they react the same way to any media folks who challenge their "views." Pretty sad.

At 6:48 PM, March 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much anger! Though I don't agree with Pete on a lot of his Jay Wright commentary, I do think that he has his moments of ineptitude during games. I still feel that Louisville was probably going to win that game regardless, but I am still very confident in our chances this year in the tournament.

I would also have to agree that if you don't like the site, visit another. I believe that there are quite a few linked on the right side of the page...

At 7:20 PM, March 14, 2009, Blogger Pete said...

Specialk, lets not bring irrelevant politics into this -- though I thank you for your support - -I think most of my bashers are conservatives anyway, due to nova demographics

At 12:03 AM, March 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:39 AM, March 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:53 PM, March 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction Pete - Wachovia Center is Friday/Sunday same as 2006

At 2:56 PM, March 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey gang...everyone knows that RePete posts under his name and other on this blog....

One thing he just doesnt understand is that in a game there is going to be a winner and a loser. Right now Louisville is flat out better than we are...they will get a #1 seed in 2 hours and deservedly so. Its not always about a coach making the difference pal. On Friday night in the 2nd half, Louisville made the 3s and put pressure akin to mid-80's Hoyas teams on us. We lost. Get over it. Your blog will be gone long before Jay is done coaching the Wildcats.

At 4:17 PM, March 15, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

21 --- nope, it's not. It's Thurs-Sat

22 -- "hey gang"? Who are you, Creed Bratton.

I have never posted on this site under anything but this name. You, on the other hand, are anonymous.

At 4:25 PM, March 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for deleting my post because you knew I was right Pete. The same exact thing happened to Boeheim that happened to Nova. L'Ville is good we are not on their level yet. You are losing credibility when you delete post that are good.

At 4:27 PM, March 15, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

The only posts I delete are ones that contains words like "c*cksucker."

Learn to express yourself without resorting to cliche profanity, and next time I won't delete it.

At 7:22 PM, March 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:02 PM, March 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete I did not use profanity as it is unnecessary. So you lied Pete.

At 12:01 AM, March 16, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Well I am sure if I deleted it, it was either profane or grossly incorrect.

Why don't you say what you posted?

At 12:44 AM, March 16, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cory Fisher better enjoy his pt while he can because a real point guard is coming to Nova...one that will not turn the ball over 7 times in a big game. Malik Wayans can not get here fast enough.

At 12:45 AM, March 16, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:46 AM, March 16, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:58 AM, March 18, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article today by Mike Kern from the Philadelphia Daily News on one of our favorites -- Reggie Redding. It really tells the story of Jay's teams -- the whole is a collection of the pieces. Each player does exactly what Jay asks of him. Go Wildcats! http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/sports/20090318_Redding_accepts_his_role_for_Villanova.html


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