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23 November 2007

Wildcats move past UCF in Old Spice opener

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
11/23/2007 02:20:00 AM

Villanova 76
Central Florida 68

(box score)

Central Florida: 2-1 (0-0 CUSA)
#19 Villanova: 3-0 (0-0 BE, 0-0 B5)

Next game: vs. George Mason, 11/23 at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida (Old Spice Classic round 2).

The Knights of Central Florida did enough to keep it close, but ultimately they could not stop Villanova from advancing in the first round of the 8-team Old Spice Classic tournament tonight in Orlando, Fla.

Villanova used a phalanx of guards to disarm the Knights. On a night when its two upperclassman forwards fouled out, Villanova turned to its five freshman and sophomore guards to put the game away.

Scottie Reynolds paced the 'Cats in scoring, with 19, but tonight was freshman Corey Fisher's coming-out party. Fisher, in his second game back from knee tendinitis, saw the first significant minutes of his career, and he did not disappoint.

Fisher looked fantastic running the point, freeing Reynolds to roam the perimeter as the 2 guard. Fisher used his speed, handle, and court awareness to carve apart the UCF defense. Fisher's game seems custom-made to complement Reynolds's, and both players will benefit from sharing court time.

Fisher and Reynolds were not the only story, however. The other three guards also saw quality minutes, especially Reggie Redding, who scored a new career-high 14 points in 23 efficient minutes.

As for the front court, Clark and Cunningham were quiet even as they racked up minutes and fouls. Casiem Drummond, the sophomore center, alternated between flashes of brilliance and the hallmarks of inexperience.

After Clark and Cunningham fouled out late in the game, Villanova switched to a very intriguing 4-guard lineup: Drummond, Reynolds, Fisher, Redding, and either of the other freshman guards, Malcolm Grant or Corey Stokes.

Still later in the game, 'Nova went fully 5-guard. Few teams could plausibly field five guards on the court for meaningful minutes, but Villanova is one of them. I look forward to Jay Wright employing this dynamic lineup at some point in the season, as needed.

What did all this fine guard play mean for the 'Cats tonight? Villanova pulled away from the Knights with huge margins in two areas: points in the paint (22-12), and fast-break points (7-0).

The 22 points in the paint were largely a result of excellent guard play, either in getting layups on run-outs, drives to the basket, drives and dishes, or quality entry passes into the post.

The 7-0 margin in fast-break points was due in no small part to a nifty little three-quarter court press employed from time to time by the 'Cats.

Villanova went legitimately nine deep tonight, which I think will be the regular rotation barring injury.

Congratulations to reader "Matt" for most closely predicting tonight's final score. Another reader, "Michael," predicted the final score exactly, but submitted his prognostication about 20 minutes after the game started.

Next up for Villanova is the extremely well-coached George Mason squad, which knocked off #20 Kansas State tonight. It will be an excellent test for the Wildcats to face such an experienced team that executes so precisely.

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 38 min)

    Reynolds led the team in points (19) and assists (5). He shot a mediocre percentage from the field (4-14), and all his field goals were three-pointers (4-11). Some of those threes, however, were huge momentum turners or boosters. Scottie was excellent from the free-throw line, sinking 7-8. He was a little sloppy at times with the ball, leading the team in turnovers with 4. For the 20 minutes or so that Fisher ran the point, Reynolds looked fantastic at the 2. Scottie's passing was also outstanding tonight. Even when he is not officially the point guard, make no mistake: Villanova's offense runs through Reynolds.
    Grade: A-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 34 min)

    Cunningham contributed 34 solid, quiet minutes tonight, and played his best on the defensive end of the court. Dante led the team in steals with 4, and blocked one shot. He led the team in rebounds, with 6. He seemed to struggle on offense, and shot 2-6 from the field, which for him is a very low percentage. In my opinion, Cunningham took a few shots from beyond the foul line that were ill-advised, considering how much more effective he is on the blocks. With so many talented guards, it is going to be crucial for Cunningham to stay healthy and out of foul trouble for extended runs this year.
    Grade: B-

  • Shane Clark (S, 25 min)

    After leading the team in scoring the past 2 games, Clark was quiet tonight on offense. He scored just 6 points on 3-6 shooting, including 0-2 from three-point land. He was effective in other areas, however, turning in a balanced performance with 5 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal.
    Grade: B-

  • Reggie Redding (S, 23 min)

    Redding continues to improve by leaps and bounds, particularly on the offensive end. He notched a career high in scoring for the second consecutive game, putting in 14 on an efficient 5-8 from the field. Redding was also sharp from the three, shooting 2-3. As usual, he made excellent decisions with the ball, adding 3 assists and, more important, committing no turnovers. Redding is a good ballhandler, especially under pressure, when he has the distinct ability to keep his cool on the court.
    Grade: A-

  • Corey Fisher (23 min)

    Finally Villanova fans got to see the Corey Fisher they'd hoped for since he signed his letter of intention one year ago. Fisher looked like he was playing a step faster than anyone from UCF, and ran by and around defenders seemingly at will. His resemblance to former Villanova star Kyle Lowry is now approaching eerie, at least on the offensive end. (Lowry was admittedly a better defender). Fisher used his silly handle to get past double teams and traps, and he took advantage of his quickness and decisiveness to make good things happen once the defense broke down. He took care of the ball, committing no turnovers even while running the point for the majority of his court time. Fisher dished out 3 assists, including a ridiculous cross-key pass to Shane Clark for a layup that has already been immortalized as a Web gif. Fisher scored 18 points on efficient 6-13 shooting, including 4-8 from the three. According to Villanova coach Jay Wright's remarks after the game, "we're not even seeing him at 100 percent." It's scary to think of what "100 percent" will look like.
    Grade: A

  • Casiem Drummond (S, 19 min)

    Drummond is slowly coming into his own as a legitimate Big-East big man. His talent is obvious, and his execution seems to be getting a bit more consistent. Drummond shined tonight on the offensive glass, grabbing a team-high 4 offensive rebounds. He shot 2-3 from the field for 7 points, and was 3-5 from the foul line. His defense was fairly solid, and he blocked two shots. If Drummomd can tap his talent and be a bit more decisive with the ball, his ceiling is very high.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Stokes (14 min)

    Sharpshooter Stokes struggled tonight from behind the arc, shooting 1-5. He scored 5 points on 2-6 shooting overall, but did handle the ball well. He also grabbed 4 rebounds in a relatively short amount of playing time, and showed once again that his game is more than two-dimensional. A streak shooter like Stokes will always have off nights, and tonight was one of them. Still, Stokes is a player and will continue to improve with experience as he learns the Wildcats' system. For a player who missed several practices for a personal issue, Stokes already seems ahead of the curve.
    Grade: C-

  • Antonio Pena (10 min)

    The athletic Pena's potential seems to be limitless, but he did not do much tonight in 10 minutes. He scored 2 points on 1-1 shooting, and primarily played on the wing. He grabbed 2 rebounds, but was 0-3 from the foul line. Hopefully we will see the development of Pena as the season progresses, because it's clear he has a lot of talent.
    Grade: D+

  • Malcolm Grant (9 min)

    Grant is an excellent defender and ballhandler, and his contribution tonight, though brief, was valuable. He scored 1 point on 0-1 shooting from the field, and dished out 1 assist. Grant's biggest assets tonight was his ballhanding, but he is also able to score when asked, as we have seen earlier in this season.
    Grade: C

  • Incomplete grades: None.

  • Did not play:
    Dwayne Anderson
    CD, Andrew Ott (CD), Jason Colenda (CD), Frank Tchuisi (wrist).

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