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01 March 2007

Reynolds explodes at UConn as 'Cats punch dance ticket

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
3/01/2007 12:31:00 AM

Villanova 78
Connecticut 74

Connecticut: 17-12 (6-9 BE)
Villanova: 19-9 (20-9, 8-7 BE, 4-0 B5)

Next game: vs. Syracuse , 03.03 @The Wachovia Center.

It might have been a little too close for comfort, but Scottie Reynolds and the Villanova Wildcats stamped their NCAA dance card tonight with a victory at the University of Connecticut.

With the win, Villanova improved to 8-7 in Big East play, thus ensuring at least a .500 finish in conference. Several national bracketology experts declared before the game that with one more win the Wildcats would be solidly in the NCAA field of 65, and I agree. Villanova's name will be called on Selection Sunday; we are now playing for seeding.

The story tonight was Scottie Reynolds. The freshman once again put the entire team on his back and willed the Wildcats to the win. Reynolds dropped 40 points on the Huskies to become the highest scoring visitor ever at the Gampel Pavilion, where the 'Cats had only won once before.

Reynolds shattered all kinds of records tonight. He now holds the highest single game point total for a freshman this season in the nation, beating out consensus player-of-the-year Kevin Durant. Reynolds also now becomes the leading single-game freshman scorer in Villanova history. He missed that same accolade in Big East history by a single point. Finally, Reynolds is the only Wildcat to score 40 points this decade.

With the 40-point performance in Villanova's biggest game of the season, Reynolds also erased any doubt about who would earn the Big East Conference's rookie of the year award. Now Reynolds' name must be seriously considered for national rookie team honors and the first-team all-conference award.

Villanova has three starting scholarship seniors about to embark on their final post-season run, but there is no question about whose team this is when the chips are down. Will Scottie "pull a Carmelo" and lead his team to great post-season heights nearly singlehandedly as a freshman? Only time will tell, but he sure has a great start.

On Saturday, Villanova closes out its regular season with a 2 p.m. game against the Syracuse Orange at the Wachovia Center. Though both of the teams should be safely in the tournament at this point, Saturday's game has tremendous seeding implications, and could provide the winner with some immutable bubble insurance should several conference tournaments end in upsets.

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 36 min)

    Unbelievable. Unstoppable. Unreal. It's difficult to describe the degree to which Scottie Reynolds carried Villanova tonight. For starters, Reynolds scored 51 percent of the Wildcats' points tonight while playing just 18 percent of their minutes. If you add in the 6 points Reynolds set up with his team-leading 3 assists, Reynolds accounted for 59 percent of the 'Cats offense. And in reality, it was even more than that. The game plan for tonight was simply "give it to Scottie." Sure, the other Wildcats did a great job setting some high ball screens for Scottie, and grabbing some offensive boards, but on offense it was basically one-on-five. And we won. That's how good Reynolds is. Hall-of-famer Jim Calhoun knew the plan, knew who was getting the ball, and knew where it was going, but the UConn coach and his players simply could not stop Reynolds.

    Let's take a look at the statistics. Reynolds shot a remarkable 12-25 (48 percent) from the field despite the fact that he was was the primary focus of the Huskies' defense, and everyone in Storrs knew it. At 6-15, he was 40 percent from the three, which is the equivalent of 60 percent from inside the arc. Reynolds got to the line a ridiculous 14 times, and netted 10 of those free throws in what was arguably the "weakest" part of his game tonight. Scottie led the team in assists with 3. Reynolds also grabbed 4 rebounds, committed 4 turnovers, and snagged 2 steals. It was simply a sublime, dominating performance from the freshman, hopefully one of many more to come.
    Grade: A

  • Mike Nardi (S, 32 min)

    Nardi played well for most of the game by playing within himself. He drilled two open threes and shot a perfect 6-6 from the line to finish with 12 points on 2-6 shooting from the field. He did make bad decisions with the ball, however, especially in crunch time. Nardi co-led the team with 4 turnovers, including two inexcusable back-to-back turnovers that let the Huskies right back into the game at the end. If this team is going to have any hopes of an NCAA run, Nardi has to improve in the clutch. Mike added 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
    Grade: C-

  • Curtis Sumpter (S, 28 min)

    This was the prototypical game from Sumpter at his best, free to play a complementary role on offense. He looked superb in cleaning up the boards, especially on his 3 offensive put-backs. He led the team in rebounds with 10. Sumpter also scored 18 points on 7-15 shooting, and was 4-5 from the foul line. He had 1 turnover, and 1 block. Getting 18 and 10 from Curtis would be huge the rest of the way, especially if it is in his preferred complementary mode.
    Grade: A-

  • Will Sheridan (S, 28 min)

    Sheridan played some good defense on UConn's imposing young front line before fouling out. He finished with 0 points on 0-3 shooting, but did grab 7 rebounds. He did a lot of the important "little things" to win the game. He led the team with 4 steals, and added 2 assists. Aside from the complete lack of offense, a good game by Will.
    Grade: B-

  • Shane Clark (27 min)

    Clark was quiet for the majority of the game. He did hit two huge free throws at the end to seal up the victory, but was generally missing in action before that. Clark shot 1-4 from the field and 2-4 from the line to finish with 4 points. He only had 2 rebounds, and did not get any steals, blocks, or assists. His defense was probably his strongest point tonight.

  • Reggie Redding (16 min)

    Redding did not make much of an impact on the box score, but the box score was not the only story. Reggie provided some absolutely crucial relief minutes for the foul-plagued 'Cats. He handled the ball strongly and did not commit a turnover. Reggie also made one of most critical plays of the game at the very end when he cooly completed a long pass down the court while double-teamed, breaking a ferocious Husky press. Redding scored 2 points on 1-1 shooting, and dished out 2 assists. His defense was excellent.
    Grade: B

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 15 min)

    Cunningham finally moved back into the starting lineup tonight, but spent much of the game on the bench in foul trouble. He really looked out of it offensively, shooting 0-4 for 0 points. He grabbed 4 rebounds but committed 2 turnovers. Uncharacteristically, he had no steals or assists. Dante needs to get back in his excellent mid-season form, and the sooner, the better.
    Grade: D

  • Casiem Drummond (15 min)

    Aside from Scottie Reynolds, Casiem Drummond was the surprise player of the game for the 'Cats. Though he had been relegated to the bench for the past several games, Drummond seized his opportunity tonight to provide 15 minutes of excellent low-post play. He played outstanding defense on the formidable Husky front line, and grabbed 5 rebounds. He scored 2 points on 1-2 shooting. The box score does not credit him with a steal, but he had a beautiful strip and layup immediately following a UConn inbound. I would not complain at all if Drummond saw some significant minutes in the post from here on out.
    Grade: B

  • Incomplete grades:
    Bilal Benn
    (2 min), Dwayne Anderson (1 min),

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

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