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23 March 2009

Villanova soars past UCLA to Sweet 16

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
3/23/2009 02:19:00 AM
Villanova 89
(box score)

#18 UCLA: 26-9
#11 Villanova: 28-7

Villanova fired on all cylinders on Saturday to blow out a very good UCLA team and march on to the Sweet 16 next weekend.

Not only was the game never really close; The Wildcats uncharacteristically played well for a full 40 minutes, the first time this season we have seen both the consistent effort and the results from this team across an entire game against top-flight opposition.

I have to hand it to Jay Wright: he coached an excellent game. His game plan worked well from start to finish, and the Wildcats' output looked like the result of meticulous preparation.

I even agreed with most of his substitution patterns and other in-game decisions.

After surviving too close a call against American where the Wildcats looked lost for two-thirds of the game, Villanova obviously had the Bruins' number from the tip on Saturday. With just two days between the games, the coaching staff certainly had begun preparing for UCLA before the American game on Thursday.

And it worked out.

Villanova's physical defense, its "nothing-easy" philosophy, and its tenacity in attacking the weak Bruin interior on the offensive end exploited UCLA's vulnerabilities while minimizing its strengths.

The Wildcat defense contained senior Darren Collison more than I thought possible in his final collegiate game, and his high-flying back-court mate Josh Shipp never cleared the tower.

Early physical play by Villanova helped set the tone that nothing would come easy for UCLA, leaving the Bruins' offense in disarray from the start. The Wildcats played a pressure defense, with a nifty 1-2-1 press and aggressive contention of all passing and dribbling lanes.

On the offensive end, the Wildcats used a balanced attack that emphasized getting to the rim, post play, and interior passing to rip the Bruins' exposed underside to shreds. Point guard Corey Fisher and shooting guard Reggie Redding were integral to the first tactic, and senior forward Dante Cunningham took care of the latter two.

These strategies, in turn, opened up some nice jump shots for Villanova's shooters, most notably Corey Stokes.

Overall, the game was a nice realization of the potential latent all season, given Villanova's offensive weapons. And it's almost scary to consider that Scottie Reynolds, the team's best scorer, remained in a bit of a shooting slump -- though his numbers improved Saturday, as well.

With Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Dante Cunningham, and Dwayne Anderson all scoring well, Villanova was unstoppable. Add a hot Scottie Reynolds to the mix, and the Wildcats would be able to play with -- and beat -- anyone this year.

In addition to the game itself, another highlight on Saturday was Jay Wright's decision to invite the 1971 Villanova team to sit behind his bench, and to join his team in the locker room afterwards.

Jack Kraft's 1971 team, of course, advanced to the national championship game before falling to John Wooden's UCLA Bruins.

Saturday was the first time the two programs had met in the NCAA tournament since then. Inviting the 1971 team to be front and center at the festivities was a classy move, and further demonstrates Wright's excellent handling of public relations for the team and the university.

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

Villanova now moves on to Boston for a Sweet 16 match with the Duke Blue Devils on Thursday. The game seems favorable for the Wildcats, as Villanova may be able to again exploit its athletic interior versus slower Blue Devils.

Shock and awe saturation coverage of the Duke game to follow later this week.

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

  • Reggie Redding (S, 34 min)

    One of the better games of Redding's career. This was why Wright prefers to give so much time to Redding over those who might score more efficiently -- and why Wright will likely start Redding next season despite the presence of five more talented guards on the roster. Redding played efficiently on offense, shooting 4-8 from the field, 1-2 from the three, and 4-4 from the line. He grabbed 6 rebounds and dished out a team-high 7 assists. He played excellent defense, not only coming up with 4 steals, but also doing great defensive jobs on UCLA's three perimeter stars (Collison, Shipp, and Jrue Holiday). The only downside to Redding's game was that he committed 4 of the 11 Wildcat turnovers, but it was till one of his best performances of the year.
    Grade: A-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 34 min)

    Anderson didn't shoot nearly as well as he did against American, but he was hardly less effective. He shot 4-14 and 2-4 to score 10 points. Though the shooting numbers are bad, he made up for them with energy and aggression on defense, passing, and on the glass. Anderson led the team in rebounds with 11, and rounded out his box score with 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 turnovers. Anderson's athletic, explosive game in the halfcourt will be key against Duke's runners and gunners.
    Grade: B+

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 31 min)

    Reynolds went a long way to break out of a recent shooting slump with some very decent offense on Saturday, He was 4-9 from the field and 2-6 from the three, scoring 11 points. He played very good defense, limiting Collison and Holiday substantially. Reynolds did not compile many more statistics -- he had 0 rebounds, 1 assist, and 0 steals -- but he did not commit a single turnover in 31 minutes, which was huge. Look for Reynolds to have a monster scoring game before this tournament is over.
    Grade: B+

  • Corey Fisher (25 min)

    Corey Fisher was the best player on the court on Saturday and it was not even close. Fisher ran the Wildcats offense flawlessly -- literally without an error. In 25 minutes, Fisher was explosive and under control, simultaneously. He scored 13 points on 4-7 shooting, including another perfect performance from the foul line (4-4). His four baskets included some spectacular finishes that were impossible to defend. He passed for 5 assists and committed 0 turnovers, even while being guarded by Collison and Holiday, two of the best pickpockets in the nation. The only limit on Fisher's performance Saturday was his slight foul trouble, and he will have to monitor that issue against Duke on Thursday. The Blue Devils have been known to get their share of calls. This offense is now Fisher's to run, and he will be front and center in the Sweet 16.
    Grade: A

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 24 min)

    Cunningham was spectacular on Saturday. Taking advantage of UCLA's questionable interior, Cunningham looked like a man against boys in the lane. He shot an excellent 7-11 from the field and a decent 4-7 from the line. He did not take any questionable jumpshots, instead focusing on running the floor and owning the post. He grabbed 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, and dished out 2 assists. He had 2 turnovers. Cunningham sat for most of the first half due to foul trouble, although he probably could have played with 2 fouls. Then again, the Wildcats were rolling, so Jay Wright's caution was justified this time.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Stokes (23 min)

    Stokes was hot from long range on Saturday, especially in the first half. His early long-range bombs forced the Bruins to collapse less on Cunningham, which opened the interior. When Stokes is firing threes and Cunningham is patrolling the post -- all while Fisher is threatening to get to the rim at any given moment, and Anderson is running circles through the paint -- this offense is difficult to contain. Stokes was also good defensively on Saturday. He finished 4-9 from the three with 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 turnover.
    Grade: B+

  • Shane Clark (S, 16 min)

    Clark was back to his complementary game on Saturday, shooting an efficient 4-7 and bringing the help on the offensive glass. He grabbed 4 rebounds, had 1 steal and 1 assist each, and did not commit any turnovers. His defense improved since the American game, too. In limited doses, Clark's hustle game is a nice change of pace for the Wildcats.
    Grade: B

  • Antonio Pena (10 min)

    Pena mysteriously did not see any time against American, but he got 10 minutes on Saturday. He was fairly ineffective in his playing time, however. He shot 0-1 from the field and 2-4 from the foul line -- hardly impressive numbers. He also committed 2 turnovers while grabbing only 1 rebound, with no assists, steals, or blocks. Pena will be a key post player next year, and hopefully he can pick it up as a reserve in the Sweet 16. One positive note was his physical defense on Saturday.
    Grade: D+

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

  • Did not play: Maurice Sutton (RS).

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At 3:29 AM, March 23, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

How about that for a positive post?!

What a game.

I think we will beat Duke as well....

At 7:01 AM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Villanova, North Carolina and Memphis

Who are the only teams to make the Sweet 16 in 4 of the last 5 years?

At 7:14 AM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous IMKL said...

Duke is a lot like UCLA. Good perimeter team that doesn't react well to physical play. They don't have as good post play as UCLA, but their defense is much better, this year in particular.

Playing UCLA recently, and Marquette 3 times, has got to be great prep for a team like Duke.

I think we can put on another clinic on Thursday, meaning another 20 point victory. The keys will be containing Duke's fast break opportunities, and limiting our own TOs.

Hopefully the team didn't use up all their energy and intensity against UCLA. If they come out that way all the time, near unbeatable!

At 9:12 AM, March 23, 2009, Blogger Fact said...

Very Fair writeup.. Pena Is a big question mark IMO.. If Armwood and Yarou are as good as advertised, Tone might not see the floor very much unless he has a monstrous offseason. We can't forget about Kin who is also fairly prolific in the post. I get frustrated with the criticism of Jay but you very fairly recognize that he may be the best PR coach in the nation and is one hell of a class act. His work in trying to bring former players closer to the program is something that was neglected in the previous regime and I love that he's done it. If you're around, stop by the live blog on FOVS this thursday Pete.. we wouldn't mind having someone who has a different view.. We're all about diversifying.

At 9:51 AM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re #4 - the rumor is that Armwood, as much potential as he has, is raw and may redshirt. I certainly don't see him playing much next year. If Pena doesn't develop, one of two things IMO needs to happen (in addition to Yarou playing a lot, which is pretty much a given):

(1) Sutton plays an unexpectedly big role, or
(2) King plays a little out of position at the 4.

The latter is IMO a real possibility. I have mixed feelings about it; I think it will create problems defensively and in terms of rebounding - but I bet Pete would be thrilled, given his preference for smaller lineups & offensively oriented layers. Vertainly having King, Stokes, Reynolds and Fisher on the floor together at times would be offensively very explosive.

In a lot of ways King is a real wildcard for next year. I have no idea as to whether he's gotten with Wright's program (one would think that Wright's defense first philosophy might noty come natuarally to him), but if he has, he's going to play a lot at either the 3 or the 4. People forget that he was also a high school all American; add a year of experience at Duke and a year pracicing weith Nova, and he could be a huge part of any success the team has net year.

At 10:00 AM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No review for Colenda?! WTF??? Best game of his career!

MVP of the game, if you ask me.

At 10:41 AM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous MainLiner said...

Does anyone else cringe anytime shane clark touches the ball on offense?

At 11:45 AM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coach K will make an example out of Coach J. The Duke program is just too good.

At 12:33 PM, March 23, 2009, Blogger Pete said...



His role should be clean-up duty only.

At 12:36 PM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with Shane Clark touching the ball. Although it never happens because he has terrible hands and every pass flies straight through them.

At 12:40 PM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous Oysters said...

first off redding deserves an A end of story. He is the one of the most consistent players we have and he should be recognized for his contributions. As for post #7, the answer is yes, it seems like shane has a pair of boxing gloves on his hands that prevent him from catching the basketball. As for Scottie, I think a B+ is way too generous. He needs to get his head out of his ass and play like the star that he can be. With him rolling, along with dante, dwayne, reggie, and the coreys we are as good as anyone. As for Anon #8, Duke is gonna have trouble with nova, and i dont think jay is gonna back down just because its coach k standing across from him.

At 12:43 PM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous b said...

an example?!, coach J is as classy as they come, coach K eats cheese and runs from cats.

and teaches his players this:


At 1:51 PM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous Jay's cufflinks > Coach K's suit said...

Nova's best game of the year by far, probably of the last several years. When they come out aggressive and stay that way the entire game they are very hard to beat. Hopefully this sets the tone for the rest of the tournament as opposed to being a one and done example.

At 3:58 PM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMKL...hope you are kidding about a clinic on Thursday. It just won't happen. We're all on the same team but I will be astonished if we're able to beat Duke by 20. I'll take a two point win.

Saturday was the best game I have seen a Villanova team play in a very, very long time. Perhaps since one of the two destructions of #1 UConn in 95. Perhaps since 4/1/85 or 1/31/83 wins over G'town.

This UCLA team can't hold a candle to Duke. UCLA was too busy complaining about the refs, the morning start, having to leave California for the first time since Lew Alcindor, etc. The fact that we won is no surprise. The fact that we made them look like a high school team is the surprise.

Win or lose, make or miss look for Gerald Henderson to take every shot and go for every rebound. He has a bet with his own sister on this game. He'll either go 4-15 and finish with 15 or he'll get 35.

Wildcats 88
Duke 81

At 6:44 PM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous IMKL said...

#7 - I don't cringe when Shane touches the ball on offense. Often times grabbing the ball is half the problem for him! What terrible hands he has on the offensive end!

#14 - No I am not kidding about a clinic on Thursday. I said the same thing about UCLA, as I watched how they played vs VCU and noticed that they would be no match for Nova. At the time I don't think many people agreed with me there either, and what happened?

This Duke team got absolutely blitzed by Clemson by nearly 30 points. Duke is a good team sure, but we are much better. I see us putting a beat-down on them, with the lead in the 2nd half consistently in the double digits.

I'll wait for the preview of the game before I give my score prediction.

At 6:51 PM, March 23, 2009, Anonymous IMKL said...

Maybe TK is giving us some inside info too. Weaknesses or tendencies of the players. Shit-talking that would really aggravate them. Who knows.

At 10:34 PM, March 23, 2009, Blogger Fact said...

There is no doubt that King is a valuable asset to have in this game. I wonder who Jade Henderson wants to win this game.. Even if my brother was on an opposing team, i'd still pull for 'Nova. Regardless of the score I want Duke to come out of this game feeling like we plowed them without the courtesy of using KY Jelly

At 7:35 AM, March 24, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buzz Williams looked great coaching his player to step over the out of bounds line while inbounding the ball. What a genius.

Pete, time to admit you were terribly wrong on that call.

At 11:27 AM, March 24, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shane 'Butterfingers' Clark is a klutz. He reminds me of Gumby, with his lanky, goony stature. Seriously, he moves like he's in a Claymation.

At 12:20 PM, March 24, 2009, Anonymous Geesus said...

No doubt that Shane can have butterfingers, and its been very bad recently but I think he is a guy to watch against Duke. I predict a double double from Shane for one of his best performances ever.

At 3:39 PM, March 24, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post from our tier 5 blogger. Tell RickBMW we say hi.

At 11:03 PM, March 24, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rickbbmw was a fraud. probably never drove a bmw in his life.


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