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04 February 2007

'Nova saves season with win over Louisville

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/04/2007 04:13:00 AM

Villanova 57
Louisville 53

(box score)

Louisville: 15-7 (16-7, 6-3 BE)
Villanova: 14-7 (15-7, 4-5 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: vs. St. Joseph's, 02/06 @ The Pavilion.

Villanova was victorious in its must-win game yesterday against the Louisville Cardinals at the Wachovia Center, winning 57-53. With the W, the Wildcats improve to 4-5 in conference play and now are on the inside track to an NCAA bid.

It was close the entire game, but the 'Cats defense earned them the victory. Villanova held Louisville to 34.5 percent shooting from the field. This excellent defense helped to counteract the Cardinals' 2-to-1 advantage in turnovers forced (16-8).

Villanova also dominated on the glass, winning the battle of the boards 42-27.

Aside from the generally sloppy play that caused too many turnovers and poor shots, the Wildcats played with high levels of energy and purpose. This may have been aided by Jay Wright's implementation of a deeper, more balanced rotation against the speedy Cardinals, as compared to the previous few games.

Villanova went a legitimate 8 deep yesterday, and all 8 players saw at least 10 minutes of floor time. This playing-time spread probably allowed the 'Cats fresher legs at the end when they pulled away for the win.

Onto the player grades. As always, click "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 35 min)

    The story is out about Scottie Reynolds. The coaching fraternity in the Big East is now fully aware that Reynolds is the absolute key to the team's success. Rick Pitino said as much in the post game press conference:

    Their record is tremendous when [Reynolds] has great scoring nights. When Sumpter scores a lot of points, they lose. When [Reynolds] scores a lot of points, they win. We were not going to let Scottie Reynolds beat us.

    Scottie, consequently, had to overcome his position as the focus of the Louisville defense. It was not unusual to see two Cardinal defenders jump out to double-team Scottie as soon as he caught the ball anywhere within 30 feet of the basket. With all this defensive attention, Reynolds was unable to post the kind of gaudy scoring tally we have become accustomed to of late.

    Another factor working against Scottie in conference play is the lack of respect given to him by the referees. Several times against Louisville, Reynolds took the ball to the rim and was hacked by one of Louisville's big men, but no foul was called. If Scottie were not a freshman, the officials would likely give him the benefit of the doubt in these situations. Coach Wright confirmed my suspicions in his post-game remarks:

    He doesn’t really get calls right now. When he takes it up against the big guys sometimes, and he gets hit and we don’t get the call, I don’t care. If he makes a big guy commit, we have a chance for an offensive rebound. Good things happen when he drives the ball.

    Despite all these hindrances, and the lingering effects of the flu, Reynolds actually played a good game of basketball. His shot was a little off, as reflected by his 2-11 shooting from the field and 9 points overall, but Reynolds was good from the free-throw line, shooting 4-5. Where he truly shined, however, was in ball distribution: Reynolds dished out 10 assists, his career high, and is now leading the team in dimes with 97 for the season. Reynolds also led the team in steals against the Cardinals, with 2. He was a tad sloppy with the ball, losing 4 turnovers, but he did handle the ball for 35 minutes against the suffocating Cardinals' pressure defense.

    My one concern is that Reynolds's low scoring output in the past two games (17 points total) will cause him to revert to his early-season pass-first mentality. While his passing is fantastic, this team needs Reynolds to score in order to win. I know it, you know it, and coaches Wright and Pitino know it. Let's just hope Scottie knows it.
    Grade: B

  • Mike Nardi (S, 32 min)

    Nardi started the game hot, scoring 7 of the team's first 8 points. He shot well from inside the arc at 5-6, but poorly from the three (1-4), scoring 11 overall. He did not reach the foul line. Nardi played turnover-free basketball, but only had 1 assist, and did not make any steals. He looked solid on defense. Nardi plays best when he plays opportunistically, taking what the defense gives him and not trying to force anything. He did that fairly well against Louisville.
    Grade: B-

  • Curtis Sumpter (S, 32 min)

    Curt was decent on offense, scoring 10 points on 3-8 shooting, and hitting a huge three to stop a Louisville run. He also co-led the team in rebounds with 6, and was perfect from the free-throw line. He still seems a little tentative on the floor following his bruised leg injury, which may have caused his poor defense against the Cardinals. Coach Wright resorted to subbing him out on all defensive possessions down the stretch. Sumpter was good on the offensive end, but needs to improve the defensive effort.
    Grade: C

  • Reggie Redding (30 min)

    Redding earned his way from a little-used bench player to de facto starting status in just a few games. Redding notched 30 minutes against the Cardinals, and his silky smooth game was evident once again. I am quickly becoming a Reggie Redding fan because he does so many things when he is on the court. Redding is a natural passer, and while he earned no official assists in the scorebook against Louisville, he had several passes that immediately led to assists -- these would be scored as full assists in hockey. Alas, this is basketball, where such stats are not yet inked. Redding did co-lead the team in rebounds with 6, and scored 7 points on 3-5 shooting. He did lead the team in turnovers, with 5, but at least 1 of those was not his fault -- a 5-second violation where no one came back to the inbounder against the press except Reynolds, who was double-covered. It was a nice game overall by Redding, who should see his minutes continue to increase. The team is simply better when he is out there.
    Grade: B-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 23 min)

    Cunningham had a quiet but effective game. He scored 6 points on 2-6 shooting, and grabbed 5 rebounds. He had one assist, turnover, and steal. His free-throw shooting is of major concern lately, as it seems to have regressed to last-year's form, after an excellent start this season from the foul line.
    Grade: C+

  • Shane Clark (21 min)

    Clark really bailed the team out on offense. He led the team in scoring with 12 on an excellent 4-5 from the field, including 3-3 from the three. More important, there were a few possessions where Shane looked like the only Wildcat willing to actually put up a shot. Clark's aggression offensively is a major asset when he uses it judiciously, as he did against the Cardinals. Clark also added 3 boards, 2 assists, a block, and a steal. His handle still looks terrible, and he did have 2 turnovers, but overall this was one of the best efforts from Clark all season.
    Grade: B+

  • Will Sheridan (S, 17 min)

    Sheridan once again had no impact whatsoever on the offense. He was 0-1 with 0 points in 17 minutes. He had 2 rebounds, fewer than any Wildcat who saw the floor Saturday, which is really unacceptable since Sheridan as the jumpball tapper is nominally the team's starting center. He did have an assist and a steal, and his defense was decent, but I just do not see how Sheridan is earning his minutes out there. To be fair, this was a major reduction in playing time from his average, but you would expect some sort of impact from Will while he is on the floor
    Grade: D-

  • Bilal Benn (10 min)

    Benn earned some minutes for the first time in several games, and he did not disappoint. He provided solid relief in giving some rest to Scottie and Nardi, and was aggressive on the offensive end. He scored 2 points on 1-2 shooting, and moved the ball well in the offensive sets. He also managed to grab 3 rebounds in his limited run. His defense was good.
    Grade: B-

  • Incomplete grades:

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

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