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20 February 2007

'Cats collapse at #16 Marquette

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/20/2007 04:14:00 AM

Villanova 67
#16 Marquette 80

#16 Marquette: 20-7 (21-7, 9-5 BE)
Villanova: 17-9 (18-9, 6-7 BE, 4-0 B5)

Next game: vs. Rutgers , 02/24 @The Pavilion.

The wheels came off today in Milwaukee as Villanova failed miserably in its attempt to upend the #16 Marquette Golden Eagles. Most of the team did not show up to play tonight, and the one player who did come to win did not get much help from his teammates.

It's not like Marquette was unbeatable. On the contrary, this was a very winnable game for Villanova. Indeed, mid-way through the first half the 'Cats managed to amass a nine-point lead. It was all downhill from there, however, as Marquette hungrily evened the score and took a double-figure lead of its own, this time for keeps.

The Wildcats and their perimeter-oriented game did match up poorly with Marquette, which has two NBA guards and perhaps the best backcourt in the country after UCLA. The Golden Eagles' ability to penetrate and swoop to the basket gave the 'Cats defensive fits. More important, Marquette's quicker perimeter players shut down the Villanova offense to the point that Scottie Reynolds had no help whatsoever. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that on some possessions, Reynolds was playing one-on-five out there.

If this team is even going to make the NCAA Tournament, someone, anyone, is going to have to give Reynolds a little help on offense. Sumpter has been scoring fairly well, but disappears at the end of the game. Cunningham has not been himself since he fell ill last month. Clark seems content to launch threes when he could be slashing to the rim. Nardi is playing like a freshman. Redding still hasn't found his shot. Sheridan is Sheridan.

So who does that leave? Unfortunately there is no easy answer. The 'Cats could focus on working the ball into Cunningham and getting Clark to add more than one dimension to his offensive game. When it comes down to it, though, Nardi and Sumpter are going to have to step up to the plate here to save their senior season. Do they have it in them? Time will tell.

The Wildcats have three regular-season games left, and they must win at least two of those to make the NCAA tournament, barring an unlikely deep run at Madison Square Garden. That much, everyone agrees.

Some fans say that all three games are must-win for the 'Cats to arrive in New York without facing a play-in game, but I do not think the situation is that dire.

On the strength of the team's RPI (currently 16) and its SOS (4!), this team gets into the dance with wins against Syracuse and Rutgers, regardless of how it fares in the Big East Tournament. That is the bottom line, as I see it. Losing to either Syracuse or heaven-forbid Rutgers means the 'Cats will have to win at least one game in the BET, depending on what happened in Storrs on Feb. 28.

Of course, Villanova could make the debate easy by just winning all three games, after which almost everyone will agree they are a lock for the NCAAs, come what may at MSG.

Onto the player grades, which tonight are not for the faint of heart. As always, click "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 37 min)

    After the game, Marquette coach Tom Crean said "if there's a better freshman guard in the country, I'm not sure who it is." Crean is absolutely right. Reynolds dominated this game as much as one can dominate in such a bad team loss. He dropped 25 points on a backcourt often praised for its stingy defense. He was 7-15 from the floor and 5-10 from the three. His free throw shooting was, as usual, excellent, at 6-7. He pulled in 4 rebounds, 1 less than the team lead, and co-led the team in assists and steals with 2 each. He did have 5 turnovers, but can anyone blame him? He was basically alone out there in his effort to, you know, win the game. Reynolds is a special talent and is perhaps the only bright spot to come out of this game. If you like to read only positive player reviews, stop here, because it gets kind of ugly.
    Grade: A-

  • Shane Clark (S, 32 min)

    Clark was active tonight, and played moderately well on defense aside from an incredibly dumb foul on a three-point shooter. He co-led the team in boards with 5, and in steals and assists with 2. He also had a block to go with his 2 turnovers. Where he was insufficient was on the offensive end. You can't play 32 minutes at the 3 and score just 5 points, especially when everyone but the point guard is missing in action. Clark absolutely loves to shoot threes from the corner, but he needs to add more dimensions and depth to his game. What happened to the jaw-dropping slashing athlete out of high school? We have seen flashes, but Clark needs to focus.
    Grade: D+

  • Reggie Redding (30 min)

    Jay Wright was forced to run Reggie for 30 minutes due to Mike Nardi's complete meltdown, and for the most part it was not pretty. On the one hand, Reggie plays with passion. He is on top of every loose ball, and he is a very good defender. He had 2 steals, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist along with 2 turnovers. If there were a grade for every aspect of the game aside from offense, it would be an A-. Unfortunately for Redding, offense is half the game. Redding did not score tonight in 30 minutes, shooting 0-4 including 0-3 from the three. The one three he did make -- a would-have-been huge shot late to cut the lead from 6 to 3 -- was nullified by a traveling call as Redding shuffled his feet before shooting. Redding is a player and he will improve his offense, I am sure. But we sure could use it soon.
    Grade: D+

  • Curtis Sumpter (S, 27 min)

    Sumpter got his 14 points tonight but was nowhere to be found in the clutch. Once again, he had a wide-open three that would have been huge had it fell, but he could not get the shot to drop. It may well be that Sumpter is a fantastic player for only the first 35 minutes, because I cannot really recall a game these past 5 years when he came up big in crunch time. Sumpter shot 3-8 from the field and 0-2 from the three. He co-led the team in rebounds with 5. He also had 2 assists and turnovers each. Let's hope Sumpter starts stepping up a little more in these last three games.
    Grade: C-

  • Mike Nardi (S, 22 min)

    I want to preface this review by saying that I am a huge Mike Nardi fan. Ever since I saw his first minutes on the Pavilion floor, a fun, jaw-dropping performance in a scrimmage at Hoops Mania during Mike's freshman year, Nardi has been one of my favorite players. That said, this was one of the worst games I have ever seen from him. Mike not only made freshman-type mistakes with the ball and on defense, as we have seen from him before; tonight Nardi did not look like himself at all. He was listless and lackadaisical on both ends of the floor, an unusual sight for the often-fiery Nardi. The performance culminated in a lazy, lofted crosscourt pass that was diverted by Marquette. After that, Jay Wright correctly pulled Nardi from the game and he rode the bench for most its remainder. It is only his hitting two big threes with five minutes left in an attempt to get the 'Cats back in the game that saved him from the dreaded "F" grade outright. By that point, however, it was too little, too late. If Mike cannot get his game back on track for the end of the season, Villanova may again be forced to turn elsewhere for those minutes.
    Grade: D-/F

  • Dante Cunningham (20 min)

    Dante only got 20 minutes of playing time and again did not start. Why? It's not as if Clark and Sheridan are blowing everyone away. Add me to the growing chorus of fans asking for Dante to be inserted back into the starting lineup. Cunningham played decently tonight. He scored 8 points on 2-5 shooting, and was 4-6 from the foul line. He grabbed just two rebounds, however. He had 1 turnover, assist, and steal each. We need Dante to get back to his role as the primary option in the paint.
    Grade: C-

  • Will Sheridan (S, 19 min)

    Sheridan played poorly in general, and made a lot of bad mistakes with the ball and on fouls. Sheridan handled the ball tonight about as much as I did, and still managed to commit 2 turnovers. He scored 4 points on 1-4 shooting. His defense was nothing to write home about, but he did have 2 blocks and a steal. The offense was at best nonexistent and at worst counterproductive.
    Grade: D-

  • Bilal Benn (13 min)

    Benn played 13 minutes tonight and didn't do much of anything. Aside from adding 3 rebounds, including one nice high-flying board, you'd hardly know he played in the game. Benn scored 1 point from the foul line and took no shots. His defense was, as usual, his strongest point, but in 13 minutes he needs to have some offensive impact.
    Grade: D+

  • Incomplete grades:
    Casiem Drummond
    (<1 min)

  • Did not play:
    Dwayne Anderson
    (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD), Ross Condon (CD), Andrew Ott (RS), Antonio Pena (RS).

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At 3:25 PM, February 20, 2007, Blogger Brian RN said...

As you pointed out, a lot of things went wrong for this team tonight. They looked hot in the first quarter of the game, and things just fell apart. There was certainly an overreliance on Scottie throughout the game. We're getting back to Michael Bradley basketball (we'll depend on one player to carry us), instead of what we had last year w/ Foye/Lowry/Ray. You don't need an entire team of stars, and obviously we don't have that, but a team of 3 or 4 dependable players surrounded by role players will succeed.

I'm usually not one to complain about the officials because I feel it evens out in the end, but there were several calls that killed our momentum. In particular, there were 2 or 3 charges called underneath the basket, and 2 calls where our D was called for a foul when a Marquette guy lowered his shoulder and cleared out with a forearm. I understand that we weren't the home team, but some of those calls were inexcusable.

Jay's use of the substitution method killed us at the end of the game. Though the theory of substituting offensive and defensive players out on each possession sounds nice, it never works. Players can not get into the flow of the game when they're being substituted each possession. No other game revolves around the flow of the game and momentum more than college basketball. I can't say 100% that Curtis would have made that wide open three at the end, but I believe he would have had a better chance had he not just been substituted in.

Lastly, the players looked exhausted at the end of the game, perhaps from trying to battle back. I also think though to have any chance in the BET, much less the NCAA Tourney, we'll need more than a 7-8 man roster. I think Casiem and Dwayne need some time in each of the next three games. We need them as reliable substitutes, particularly when we get into foul trouble, and to give the other guys a little rest.

We have three very winnable games, and I hope the guys take advantage of them. As always, I'll be tuning in for your inciteful commentary.

-Brian Peach

At 5:47 PM, February 20, 2007, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Good comments, Brian. Thank you.

I also think we need to go deeper on the bench and that Jay shouldn't sub out players so quickly, especially when they're trying to get into rhythm. About the officials, yes I think it was a poorly called game, but even with better officiating I still think we would have gotten killed.

The next three games are so key. I can't wait for Saturday.


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