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30 December 2007

'Nova beats La Salle to stay perfect in Big 5

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/30/2007 11:04:00 AM
Villanova 71
La Salle 58
(box score)

La Salle: 4-7 (0-0 A10, 0-1 B5)
#16 Villanova: 10-1 (0-0 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: at DePaul, 01/03 at Allstate Arena.

Villanova managed to outclass the La Salle Explorers to improve to 10-1 on the year and remain perfect in the Philadelphia Big 5 city series. It was the 14th consecutive Big 5 win for the Wildcats, who extended the all-time record for successive victories.

The 'Cats used the firepower of their starting backcourt to outgun the Explorers. Guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher combined for 37 of Villanova's 71 total points.

Villanova played good pressure defense to force 22 turnovers, but the Wildcats were sloppy with the ball themselves, committing 17 turnovers.

Villanova again went nine deep in the rotation, with all nine players who saw the court receiving double-digits in minutes. Dwayne Anderson, hero of the Hartford game, logged 18 minutes. Once again it looked like his play might earn him time during conference play.

Congratulations to reader "Matt" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is the the start of conference play and a date with DePaul on Jan. 3 in Rosemont, Ill.

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 35 min)

    Reynolds struggled a bit to get his shot going, going just 5-14 from the field and 1-4 from the three. He did, however, manage to put up a game-high 19 points, mostly by getting to the rim and getting to the line. Reynolds was 8-8 from the foul line, and was a decent 4-10 inside the arc. He grabbed 2 steals, jump-starting a few fast-breaks, and served up 3 assists. Reynolds committed 3 turnovers but otherwise handled the ball well. He managed to grab 4 rebounds, good for third-highest on the team.
    Grade: A-

  • Shane Clark (S, 33 min)

    Clark was much quieter on the offensive end than usual, taking just 4 shots. He made 3 of them to score 6 points, but was 0-2 from the foul line, and did not take a 3-pointer. He grabbed 6 rebounds and led the team in steals, with 3. He had an assist and a block and committed no turnovers in his 33 minutes. Aside from the lack of scoring, it was a fairly solid game from Shane Clark. With center Casiem Drummond now out indefinitely with a stress fracture, the Wildcats will rely on Clark a tad more to fill those vacated frontcourt minutes.
    Grade: B-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 28 min)

    Cunningham looked sharp against the Explorers, especially in the first half. He started off the game shooting 5-7 from the field before cooling off to shoot 6-11 overall. Cunningham dominated the glass against the Explorers, grabbing 12 rebounds, double the total of anyone else in the game. He was a little out of control at times, fouling out and committing 3 turnovers from the forward position. He looked solid creating space for himself down low and running in transition.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Fisher (S, 27 min)

    Fisher is definitely the best ballhandler on the team, and he showed it again against La Salle. Fisher led the team in assists, with 5, and turned the ball over only 2 times while handling point duties for much of the game. He carried a heavy load offensively, scoring 18 on 6-15 shooting, including 2-5 from the three. He was a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. Fisher is now consistently one of the team's best players, and will be a force in conference play.
    Grade: A-

  • Reggie Redding (S, 24 min)

    Redding continues to be a valuable role player in the backcourt. While he may never take over a game offensively, he does seem to do the little things to help the team win. That said, Redding played a quiet game against the Explorers, even by his standards. He took just 1 shot, though he did make it, and was 1-2 from the line to score 3 points. His defense was decent, but he did not notch a single assist or steal. On the plus side, he did not turn the ball over, either. Look for Redding to take a step forward with his offensive confidence as he enters his second Big East season.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (18 min)

    I guess the secret is out on Dwayne Anderson. Long relegated to a role as the sixth guard on the team, Anderson has been making his impact felt as a basketball player first. He played another good game against La Salle. Anderson scored 4 points on 2-4 shooting. He added 3 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and 2 steals in his useful 18 minutes. As a longtime fan of Dwayne Anderson, I would like to see him remain in the rotation during conference play. If recent results are any indication, it looks like he will.
    Grade: B

  • Antonio Pena (15 min)

    Pena continues to develop and still has not fully tapped his tremendous talent and athleticism. Against La Salle, Pena scored 6 points on 2-6 shooting. He grabbed just 2 rebounds, and did not notch any other positive statistics. He committed 2 turnovers. Pena has better performances in him, and has the potential to explode into a powerful inside-outside scorer.
    Grade: C-

  • Malcolm Grant (10 min)

    Grant seems to alternate between Herculean efforts and smaller contributions. The La Salle game was in the latter category. Grant took just 3 shots, and sank a 3-pointer to score his only 3 points. He did handle the ball reasonably well in carrying out his point duties, dishing 2 assists and committing 2 turnovers. Overall, it was a quiet night from Grant, who nonetheless reserves the right to explode offensively at any given moment.
    Grade: C

  • Corey Stokes (10 min)

    At this point, it is time to accept that Corey Stokes will be a longer-term project than many people expected. Wildcat fans saw the McDonald's All-American logo next to Stokes's name, and were perhaps spoiled by the nearly instantaneous development of last year's All-American freshman, Scottie Reynolds, into an all-conference caliber player. It looks as if that will not be the path for Corey Stokes. While Stokes shows flashes of good instincts on the basketball court, it is his shooting that has been his Achilles' Heel. Ironically, the word on Stokes before the season was that no matter how long it took him to adapt to the Wildcat system, his shooting would be on from day one. Stokes certainly looks to be a streak shooter, but he has not had any positive streaks so far this season. Against the Explorers, Stokes was 0-2 from the field and did not score. He notched 1 assist and 1 turnover in his 10 minutes. On the positive side, Stokes's defense seems to be very slowly improving; Jay Wright would not give the All-American double-digit minutes if that were not the case.
    Grade: D

  • Incomplete grades: None

  • Did not play:
    Casiem Drummond
    (ankle), Andrew Ott (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD).

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Drummond sidelined with stress fracture

posted by NovaFan09
12/30/2007 12:21:00 AM

Before the game tonight, Villanova announced disappointing news in that sophomore center Casiem Drummond has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right ankle. Originally diagnosed as ankle tendonitis, Drummond has been hampered and unable to suit up for the past few games.

A stress fracture is defined as a tiny bone crack developed from overuse. When muscles are fatigued they fail to absorb the shock of impacts. Consequently, the muscles transfer the stress to the ankle which creates a small fracture. With proper rest, and use of protective footwear, most players with similar injuries have been able to return and be effective in the same season.

There is no timetable for his return, although similar injuries by basketball players such as Samuel Dalembert and Josh Childress have sidelined the stars for several weeks, with Childress' injury coming in the final weeks of the season. Interior players Dante Cunningham and Antonio Pena must step up in Drummond's absence if he is expected to miss significant time if the Cats hope to contend in the Big East.

Drummond has had a solid sophomore season thus far, starting six of Villanova's first eight games while averaging 7.1 points and 7.9 rebounds. His strongest game arguably came against NC State when he grabbed 17 rebounds during the Old Spice Classic.

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28 December 2007

Villanova looks to extend Big 5 streak

posted by NovaFan09
12/28/2007 02:22:00 PM
On Saturday night, the 9-1 Wildcats hope to continue their streak of 13 consecutive Big Five wins and an undefeated Big Five record this season when they host La Salle at the Pavilion for a 7pm tipoff. The game will air live on ESPNU. This is the third Big Five game Villanova will play this season, with the others coming in wins against Penn (87-61) and against Temple (101-93) earlier this month. Interestingly, La Salle (4-6), is playing their first Big Five game of the season.

Last year, Villanova defeated the Explorers by a score of 64-51, adding to the all time record of 30-26 versus La Salle. While a 13 point win is not indicative of a struggling offense, Villanova failed to capitalize on the weak Explorer defense and missed many uncontested three-pointers. Defensively, Villanova allowed too many second chance points by La Salle, who offensively rebounded with ease, allowing them to stay uncomfortably close throughout the game.

I believe that the outcome of this game will be decided with the Cats' ability to rebound and defend the three. Last year, Casiem Drummond, Dante Cunningham, and Shane Clark combined for only 12 rebounds while playing significant minutes. The Explorers are led in rebounding by ex-Corey Fisher high school teammate Yves Mekongo Mbala, Paul Johnson, and Jerrell Williams, who all average over six rebounds per game. Throughout exam week, defensive improvement and rebounding was a top priority during team practices. The Wildcats demonstrated progress when they limited Colombia to 56 points. Recently, Cunningham has grabbed double digit rebounds in three of his last four games, after averaging 4.8 in his previous six contests, a trend I believe will continue to happen.

Most of La Salle's offense comes from its starting guards, senior Darnell Harris and sophomore Rodney Green. Harris, who averages 16.3 points and has converted 41 of 82 three-point shots, is a legitimate threat to the Wildcats. He nearly catapulted the Explorers, down 16 points to an underrated Big East team in DePaul, to an early season upset on December 22. Days earlier, the Explorers rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit and took the lead in the second half before losing to SEC contender Mississippi (10-0), 84-77.

Despite their 4-6 record, La Salle is not afraid to run with power conference opponents. Villanova must protect its lead and defend the three much better or else this game will turn out to be as tight as La Salle's past few contests. I expect Reggie Redding to defend Harris much the same way he shut down Bucknell's John Griffin during the second half of Nova's 70-64 sqeaker earlier this year so that La Salle will have to rely on their other scoring options.

Offense should not be a problem for the Cats, as they have been scoring in bunches recently. After early season trouble from the charity line, Nova has shot 80.3 percent (53-for-66) in their last three games. If Villanova can keep the pace of the game to their liking and allow their scramble defense to defend the three-pointer, Villanova should come out of this game with a 10-1 record, looking pretty strong for Big East Play.

Take part in the ongoing LetsGoNova.com prediction contest by taking a shot at forecasting the final score of the game in the comments section below. Winners will receive their names in bold text on this very Web site! Go Cats!

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23 December 2007

Villanova holds off Columbia

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/23/2007 10:18:00 AM
Villanova wins, 72-56.

I was not able to catch the game this weekend, so I can't give out player grades. The win improves the Wildcats to 9-1 on the season. Next up for the #16-ranked 'Cats is La Salle next weekend at the Pavilion.

For those who saw the game, what did you think? Did the 'Cats play sloppy in the second half in allowing the Lions to come within 10 points? Or was it a solid win against a scrappy, well-coached Ivy-League team?

You make the call.

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18 December 2007

Tyreke appears with Starks in commercial

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/18/2007 12:51:00 AM
Here's a great find by the bloggers over at I Bleed Blue and White -- the Villanova recruit Tyreke Evans in a short promotional film/commercial for Zipway athletic pants.

The commercial, which also appears on the official Zipway site, depicts Evans working out on an outdoor basketball court, while the former NBA star John Starks jogs through a city. Shots of an unrelated soccer player are also shown.

Starks, formerly of the New York Knicks, co-founded the Zipway brand earlier this year. The company promises its pants feature a revolutionary technology allowing them to come off in "0.03 seconds."

I am no expert in media-appearance rules for high-school athletes, but a little quick research leads me to believe no violations are committed as long as the high-school athlete is not paid for the appearance.

Evans looks good in the Zipway commercial, but it would be even nicer to see him in a Villanova uniform.

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17 December 2007

Villanova rises in polls

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/17/2007 04:12:00 PM
I haven't spent a lot of time this year worrying about Villanova's rank in the ESPN/ USA Today coaches' poll and Associated Press poll, mainly because early-season rankings are fairly meaningless.

With conference play fast approaching, however, and fall-semester finals underway, now seems as good a time as any to take notice of the rankings.

The new ESPN/ USA Today coaches' poll ranks Villanova 16th. Villanova is at the 20th spot in the updated AP media poll.

Fellow Big East members Georgetown, Pitt, and Marquette are ahead of the Wildcats in both polls.

Should Villanova win its next four games (Columbia, La Salle, Depaul, and Pitt), the Wildcats will easily crack the top 10 or higher.

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15 December 2007

'Nova pulls away from Hartford

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/15/2007 02:40:00 PM

Villanova 103
Hartford 75

(box score)

Hartford: 5-7 (0-0 AEC)
#18 Villanova: 8-1 (0-0 BE, 2-0 B5)

Next game: vs. Columbia, 12/22 at the Pavilion.

Villanova used an explosive run beginning midway through the second half to put away a scrappy Hartford team that Jay Wright admitted controlled the tempo for much of the night. The Wildcats, heavy favorites going into the game, played the Hawks to a draw for about 30 minutes before turning on the burners with a 14-1 run in the second half.

Villanova used its explosive offense to top the century mark for the second straight game. Though some have criticized the Wildcats' defensive performance in the past few games, Villanova's defense improved Friday night, in my opinion, especially in the second half.

Many of the Hawks' jumpshots that kept the America East team in the game early on were contested. Once those shots stopped falling, the Wildcats were able to pull away.

One aspect of concern for Jay Wright and his team is the fact that Villanova was forced to abandon its highly touted press after it was exploited by the Hawks in the first half. The hallmark of Villanova's "Guard U" has always been swarming pressure defense, not just three-point shooting. While there were plenty of threes Friday (15), the pressure defense was solved and might have to be reworked slightly on the whiteboard.

The Villanova defense seemed to improve dramatically, however, upon the entrance of guard Dwayne Anderson, usually the sixth guard in the depth chart. Anderson led a fantastic 5-guard lineup that Villanova flirted with for much of the second half that did tremendous damage to the Hawk effort.

Against a team like Hartford that handles the ball well and does not have much size down low, the 5-guard lineup was the perfect second-half adjustment by Jay Wright.

With the win, the 'Cats improve to 8-1, and should move up a bit in both polls Monday afternoon.

Congratulations to reader "Steve" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Thanks to Villanova fan and 2004 alum Patrick Antonio for providing Let'sGoNova with some excellent photographs.

Next up for Villanova is the Columbia of the Ivy League at the Pavilion on Saturday night.

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 35 min)

    It was a tale of two halves for Scottie Reynolds. After struggling to get involved on offense in the first half, Reynolds turned it on in the second, dropping 17 points in the final 20 minutes to lead all scorers with 21. Reynolds, who talked after the game about putting bad games and bad halves behind him, lived up to his words in the second period, when it seemed he could not miss from behind the arc. Reynolds was 4-7 from the three in the game, and shot an excellent 6-9 from the field. He was also a perfect 5-5 from the free throw line. Reynolds led the Wildcats in assists, with 6, which is even more impressive considering the team's passing talents. With Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Malcolm Grant, and Reggie Redding handling the ball, brilliant assists have become the norm for Villanova this season. Even with all that backcourt firepower, Reynolds remains the team's best scorer and passer. One downside to Reynolds's performance Friday was his 4 turnovers. Come conference play, Scottie may have to be a bit more careful with the ball. On the defensive end of the court, Reynolds played well, displaying good defensive instincts and excellent hustle.
    Grade: A-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 33 min)

    Cunningham turned in a good performance down low Friday night on both sides of the ball. Cunningham shot 6-8 from the field, scoring 13, and led all rebounders with 13 boards. He also led the team in steals, with 4, but uncharacteristically could not finish a few of the resulting run-outs. He was sloppy with the ball, leading the team in turnovers with 5. With center Casiem Drummond in street clothes with an injured foot, Cunningham picked up the slack with an extended run Friday night.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Fisher (S, 30 min)

    Fisher really got it going on offense and was just plain fun to watch against the Hawks. He shot 7-12 from the field and 4-9 from the three to score 18 points. He was 0-2 from the foul line however, which needs to improve. Fisher dished out 3 assists, had 2 steals, and committed 3 turnovers handling point duties for much of the game. Keep an eye on Fisher to have a break-out game sometime this season where he puts up 35 or more points on one of the Wildcats' opponents.
    Grade: B+

  • Malcolm Grant (22 min)

    It's apparent that Grant is quickly becoming the favorite player of a lot of Villanova fans. Malcolm Grant is simply a winner on the court. He is also instant offense, instant energy, and instant hustle off the bench. Grant may be the best freshman on the team so far, even with three much higher-touted recruits (Fisher, Corey Stokes, and redshirt freshman Antonio Pena). Grant is excelling in his role as the ultimate weapon off the bench. Grant scored 12 points Friday on 4-9 shooting, including a blistering 4-5 from the three. On a team stocked with deadly long-range marksmen, is Malcolm Grant the Wildcats' best three-point shooter? It is a distinct possibility. Grant is 16-26 (.615) for the year from behind the arc, tops on the team with at least 5 attempts, and his stroke is picture-perfect, as well. On Friday, Grant added 3 assists and committed no turnovers in his 22 minutes. His defense was above average, as well.
    Grade: A-

  • Corey Stokes (22 min)

    A lot of Wildcat fans had pigeonholed Stokes as merely a long-range shooter, even before he stepped foot on campus. Well, they were wrong. Stokes, the McDonald's All-American, is a good all-around player, and has several talents on both sides of the ball. He has good offensive instincts and awareness, and is often in the right place at the right time. His defense is improving as he learns his way through Jay Wright's system, and his minutes are increasing accordingly. It's a good thing Stokes has these other skills, because his shooting has been outright atrocious so far this season. It is hard to believe that Stokes is the same player Jay Wright called one of the best shooters he has ever recruited. Stokes is 9-37 from the field this year, an outrageous 0.243 shooting percentage, worst on the team with at least 5 attempts by nearly 0.200. He has struggled even more from behind the three-point line, the one area that was supposed to be Stokes's speciality coming in to the Main Line. Stokes is last on the team in three-point percentage at 0.207, or 6-29 for the year so far. I wish I could say that Stokes has a good stroke but is just getting bad bounces, but it looks as if his shooting form has regressed as the season went on. After looking solid at the Wachovia Center a month and a half ago in the exhibition against Bloomsburg, Stokes's shot Friday against Hartford often took the form of an ugly line drive. Stokes shot 2-9 from the field and from the three Friday, and most of those looks were wide open. It almost seemed like his teammates were intent on setting him up behind the arc so he could drain one and gain some confidence, and it's true that his two made threes looked to be huge boosts. But it took 9 attempts to get there. With his classmates Fisher and Grant playing wise behind their years, sometimes it's easy to forget that Stokes has just nine games under his belt. I fully expect Stokes to improve every aspect of his game, but his shooting slump so far has a lot of Wildcat watchers scratching their heads.
    Grade: C-

  • Shane Clark (S, 22 min)

    Clark played a decent all-around game Friday, doing a little bit of everything in the Wildcats' victory. Clark scored 16 points on 5-9 shooting, and was 5-7 from the foul line. He grabbed 5 rebounds, including 4 offensive caroms. He had an assist, a block, and two turnovers.
    Grade: B

  • Reggie Redding (S, 14 min)

    If anyone really struggled Friday against Hartford, it was Redding. After showing some brilliant offensive flashes earlier in the fall, Redding struggled on offense tonight, scoring 3 points on1-3 shooting. His defense was a tad porous, as well. On the plus side, Redding handled the ball well, committing no turnovers, and serving up 4 assists. Redding is a gifted ball handler and there is no one else I'd rather have on the second or third pass of a press-breaking formation.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (11 min)

    Anderson is often the forgotten sixth guard here at Guard U. Friday night, he showed why we should all remember what a talented and dedicated Wildcat he is. Anderson, one of the team's four co-captains, was pressed into service after Hartford scored easily on the Wildcat defense in the first half. Anderson proceeded to do exactly what he was brought in the game to do, and put on a clinic for the six younger guards wearing Villanova uniforms. Anderson was a perfect 4-4 from the field, scoring 8 points, but his defense was the real story. He played stifling defense and did not take a possession off. Jay Wright praised Anderson's communication on defense as well. Anderson added 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 boards, and zero turnovers in his virtually perfect 11 minutes. It is good to know that a guard of Dwayne Anderson's caliber is waiting on the bench, but if he keeps turning in performances like Friday's, Anderson will find his way into the regular rotation, as well.
    Grade: A

  • Antonio Pena (9 min)

    Pena looked pretty good out there to me, but Jay Wright seemed displeased with the redshirt freshman's defense. Pena scored 4 points and grabbed 3 boards in his 9 minutes. He also added an assist and 2 turnovers before he was yanked for what I assume to be defensive lapses. Look for much bigger nights from Antonio Pena as the season wears on, because he may be the most talented forward on the team.
    Grade: C-

  • Incomplete grades: Andrew Ott(1 min), Frank Tchuisi (1 min).

  • Did not play:
    Casiem Drummond
    (foot), Jason Colenda (CD).

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14 December 2007

'Cats return to campus tonight vs. Hartford

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/14/2007 04:07:00 AM
Villanova basketball returns to the Pavilion for the first time in nearly two weeks tonight, when the Wildcats will take on the Hartford Hawks at 7 p.m.

The game is not available on television, but will be shown on Villanova.com as part of the "All-Access" option, which is $9.95 billed monthly.

Be warned, however, that the video quality of the last game shown on All-Access (Bucknell) was terrible -- borderline unwatchable, in my opinion. Additionally, Mac users will have to revert to the Safari 2 browser to watch the game. (No Firefox or Safari 3; dust off your Tiger DVDs.)

Hartford, a member of the America East Conference, is 5-6 and fresh off a win over a mascot mate, Monmouth University.

Hartford lost to Louisville by a relatively respectable 35 in Freedom Hall last month.

KenPom gives the 'Cats a 96 percent chance to win this game. In reality, it's probably close to 99 percent on paper -- but that's why they play the games, right?

Villanova by the Numbers runs a statistical preview of the game.

Crazy upsets aside, this should be a good chance for the Wildcats to let their offense fire on all its cylinders, at least in the first half. Don't be surprised to see hefty minutes for the bottom part of the rotation and the reserves in the second period.

The game may not be a blowout, however. According to VBTN, the Hawks have a decent backcourt, and it may not be easily overwhelmed by the phalanx of Villanova guards.

If you'd like to take part in the ongoing LetsGoNova.com prediction contest, take a shot at forecasting the final score of the game in the comments section below. Winners will receive their names in bold text on this very Web site!

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10 December 2007

Villanova downs Temple to set Big 5 record

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/10/2007 03:43:00 AM
Villanova 101
Temple 93

(box score)

Temple: 4-5 (0-0 A10, 0-1 B5)
#21 Villanova: 7-1 (0-0 BE, 2-0 B5)

Next game: vs. Hartford, 12/14 at the Pavilion.

Villanova set the all-time record for consecutive Big 5 wins Sunday night with a victory over the Temple Owls at the Liacouras Center, giving the Wildcats 13 straight wins in the Philadelphia city series.

The Wildcat offense exploded for 101 points just one game after it suffered from extreme sluggishness in the Wachovia Center.

Scottie Reynolds played his best game of the season, and led the Wildcats in points, rebounds, assists, and steals in a truly dominating performance. The rest of the Villanova backcourt also played well, and we even saw freshman Corey Stokes hit a pair of three pointers to shoot 100 percent from the field.

The win was fairly convincing, but there was a stretch late in the game when Villanova allowed Temple to come partially back from a much wider margin. The Wildcats were able to hold off the comeback and close out the game.

Congratulations to reader "Snig Li" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is the non-conference "cupcake" game against Hartford at the Pavilion on Friday night.

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 37 min)

    You could call this a break-out game for Reynolds if he hadn't excelled so consistently last year and throughout this season. Still, this was a particularly dominating performance. Reynolds led all scorers with 27 points on outstanding 8-12 shooting. He was also 4-7 from the three. Reynolds led the Wildcats in rebounds, with 6, and in assists, with 9. Several beautiful passes that he made were not finished for buckets, or the assist total would have been even higher. Reynolds also led the team in steals, with 3. Scottie did make some misguided passes and dribble moves, resulting in 3 turnovers, but he made up for it with his hustle and defensive effort. Most important, Reynolds was able to rebound from his free-throw woes last week with a 7-7 performance from the line Sunday.
    Grade: A

  • Shane Clark (S, 36 min)

    Clark has demonstrated that he can make and create the mid-range jumper, and that he can also drain the three ball when set up along the perimeter by a teammate. Clark played a good game against Temple, scoring 17 points on 5-10 shooting, including 1-1 from three and 6-7 from the foul line. He added 4 rebounds, an assist, and 2 turnovers.
    Grade: B

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 28 min)

    Cunningham played a quiet but altogether serviceable game Sunday. He shot 3-5 from the field to score 7 points, but it was often Antonio Pena finishing inside instead of Cunningham. As long as the ball is going in the hoop, though, it hardly matters.
    Grade: C

  • Corey Fisher (S, 27 min)

    Fisher started the game on fire, scoring 10 points in the early minutes. He cooled off a bit thereafter, but ran the offense well from the point. He scored 16 points on 5-12 shooting, and shot 2-5 from the three. He also was a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. He handled the ball well, dishing out 5 assists and committing just 2 turnovers. Fisher defended well, and came up with 2 steals. One disappointing play occurred when Corey grabbed a steal and had a breakaway with no defenders in front of him, but could not finish the layup. Luckily, trailer Reggie Redding put the tip in. Hopefully that missed layup was a fluke, because Fisher finished several such run-outs successfully in high school.
    Grade: B+

  • Reggie Redding (S, 21 min)

    Redding really struggled on the offensive end against the Owls, shooting 1-6 from the field. He was 0-2 from the three and 0-1 at the free throw line. Aside from his offensive woes, Redding played a decent game. He had 3 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and 2 turnovers. He handled the ball adequately, and generally played good defense, except for a few times when he failed to get back out to the perimeter to defend against a threeball in progress.
    Grade: C-

  • Corey Stokes (17 min)

    Stokes played a mistake-free game on offense, and looks like he is growing much more comfortable on both side of the ball with t he Wildcats. He hit both shots he took, a pair of three pointers, and was a perfect 2-2 from the line to score 8 points. He grabbed 4 rebounds and added 2 assists and a steal. He handled the ball well, making no turnovers. His defense left a little to be desired, as he looked a step behind on the perimeter; hopefully that lack of quickness can be made up for by better anticipation in future efforts.
    Grade: B

  • Antonio Pena (16 min)

    Pena was the beneficiary of some beautiful Reynolds and Fisher feeds down low, and he enjoyed several open dunks. Pena played a brilliant game, scoring 17 points on 7-8 shooting, including 1-1 from the three. He also sank both his free throws. Pena added 4 rebounds, a block, and a steal, and played well overall both in the paint and on the wing. Expect some major minutes from Pena in conference play, if he hasn't already cracked the starting lineup by then.
    Grade: B+

  • Malcolm Grant (12 min)

    Grant, fresh off his late-game heroics vs. LSU, was thankfully not needed to perform any miracles Sunday. He played good defense in his 12 minutes, but was a little quiet on the offensive side of the ball. Grant shot 1-4, including 1-2 from the three to score 5 points. He added an assist and a rebound. Personally, I would like to see more minutes for Malcolm Grant, because good things seem to happen when he is on the floor.
    Grade: B-

  • Casiem Drummond (6 min)

    Drummond struggled with a minor foot injury and foul trouble, so his minutes were severely limited. He looked decent in his short stretch of playing time, scoring 2 on 1-3 shooting. He still needs to improve his free throw stroke (0-2 Sunday), but his presence down low is a positive.
    Grade: C-

  • Incomplete grades: none.

  • Did not play:
    Andrew Ott
    , Dwayne Anderson, Jason Colenda, Frank Tchuisi.

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09 December 2007

Villanova faces Temple in Big 5 matchup

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/09/2007 04:11:00 PM
Villanova travels to Philadelphia tonight to play the Temple Owls in the Wildcats' second Big 5 game this season.

The game will air at 7 p.m. on ESPN U, which is available on certain cable and satellite packages. A sports bar would be a good bet if you cannot receive the channel.

Villanova by the Numbers runs its usual preview.

You can predict the final score of the game in the comments below for our ongoing prognostication contest.

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07 December 2007

Malcolm grants 'Nova's comeback wish

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/07/2007 03:18:00 AM

Villanova 68
Louisiana State 67

(box score)

LSU: 5-3 (0-0 SEC)
#21 Villanova: 6-1 (0-0 BE, 1-0 B5)

Next game: at Temple, 12/9 at the Liacouras Center.

Did that just happen?

That was the prevailing sentiment tonight at the Wachovia Center as the clock neared midnight, and Villanova fans stood awestruck after the Wildcats completed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college basketball.

Trailing by 21 with 8:50 to play, Villanova looked dead in the water against the athletic LSU Tigers in the inaugural Big East/SEC invitational. When LSU's Terry Martin hit a three to give the Tigers their largest lead of the night at that 8:50 mark, many 'Nova fans headed for the exits.

You can hardly blame them. It looked bad for the Wildcats. Scottie Reynolds struggled. Corey Fisher couldn't do much. Reggie Redding was having his shots blocked left and right.

Enter Malcolm Grant.

Grant, the freshman point guard, was perhaps the least heralded member of the recruiting class of 2007. Checking in at the absolute low-point for the 'Cats during a timeout at 8:48, however, Grant went to work.

Grant sparked the 'Cats to life, dishing an assist and then a hitting a three at the 6:05 mark, the first Villanova trifecta of the game. Grant's triple brought the 'Cats to within 15 at the 6-minute mark, and gave some hope to the few remaining fans.

The Tigers fought back, however, and when Marcus Thornton tipped in an offensive board to make it 64-49 with three minutes to play, it looked like the Wildcats' effort would be too little, too late.

Trailing by 15 with 2:59 on the clock, Grant launched a three that found the bottom of the net, and was fouled. He hit the free throw to bring Villanova to within 11. A turnover by LSU gave Grant the opportunity to sink yet another three, and suddenly the 'Cats trailed by 8, and the Villanova faithful started to believe.

Just after hitting his third three of the game, Grant stole the inbounds pass and dished to a wide-open Reggie Redding, who laid it in, cutting the lead to 6 with 2:19 to play in the erupting Wachovia Center.

Grant would go on to hit seven consecutive free throws, bringing the 'Cats to within a single point. Down one with the ball and 10 seconds remaining, Grant drove to the lane and got off a layup that missed, long. Dante Cunningham tipped the miss in with 5.9 seconds remaining in the game to give Villanova its first lead.

LSU missed its desperation three-point heave, and the Wildcats escaped with the most improbable of victories.

Make no mistake, this was a gutsy win for Villanova. Sparked by Grant's offensive firepower and hustle, and by the fouling out of shot-blocker Anthony Randoph with four minutes the play, the 'Cats willed out a victory.

LSU, for its part, collapsed -- epically. No matter how much guts a team has, it cannot come back from a 15-point deficit in three minutes without the leading team making some major errors. LSU left the door open, and Malcolm Grant and his teammates came charging through.

If you haven't already, check out the box score. It's incredible. After scoring just 33 points in the first 32 minutes of the game, Villanova exploded for 35 points in the final 8 minutes.

In the game, Villanova was tied for 36 seconds, trailed for an astonishing 39 minutes and 18.1 seconds, and led for just 5.9 seconds. The largest lead for LSU was 21; for Villanova, it was just 1, and for less than 6 seconds, at that.

Take a look at ESPN's "game flow" chart below. It's almost as unbelievable as the game itself.

If you want to see the amazing comeback again (and again), you can watch it on ESPN360 for at least the next few days.

Even though Villanova did get the win, there were some troubling aspects of the game. LSU dominated for much of the game, and the Wildcat offense sputtered and nearly died. Villanova was only able to attempt 2 three-pointers in the first half, and finished the game a pitiful 3-9 from behind the arc. No Wildcat not named Malcolm Grant was able to put one in from long range.

LSU's defense was brilliant, and the 'Cats could not counter. LSU used its long, athletic wingmen to over-defend the perimeter, denying the Wildcats open looks for jumpshots. Villanova responded by driving into the lane, but more often than not, its shots there were blocked or hugely influenced by LSU's pair of 6-11 forwards.

Villanova's advantage in the backcourt was completely nullified. Leading scorer Scottie Reynolds was held to 1-8 from the field, and the freshman sensation Corey Fisher managed the same numbers. Reggie Redding was an even-worse 3-13. Amazingly, many of the Wildcat points came from big men in the post, an area where they were supposedly out-matched. Only Grant, Dante Cunningham, and Casiem Drummond scored in double figures, and those three accounted for 65 percent of Villanova's total points.

Another troubling area from the game was free-throw shooting. After leading the entire NCAA in foul-shooting last season, Villanova hit absolute rock bottom tonight, missing 9 of its first 12 free throws. Though the Wildcats did heat up from the line later in the game, foul-shooting is something the team needs to improve upon as soon as possible if its NCAA Tournament hopes are to remain viable.

Congratulations to readers Bits and Steve for most closely predicting tonight's final score.

Next up for Villanova is Big Five rival Temple at the Liacouras Center on Sunday.

There's not much I can do for player grades tonight. The box score speaks for itself. For the first 32 minutes, Villanova played some of the ugliest basketball I've seen in the Jay-Wright era. But the team managed to gut out the win and complete one of the greatest comebacks anyone has ever seen.

Malcolm Grant gets a solid A, and everyone else gets an A for effort.

Trust me, though, those first 32 minutes were not pretty; let's hope we do not see a stretch like that again this year.

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05 December 2007

Wildcats to face Tigers in battle of predatory felines Thursday

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/05/2007 02:45:00 PM

#21 Villanova returns to the Wachovia Center Thursday to face Louisiana State as part of the first annual Big East/SEC invitational. (Unless otherwise noted, this site always uses the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll.)

The game will air live nationwide on ESPN Thursday night at 9:30 p.m.

LSU of the SEC is the second BCS-conference team the 'Cats face so far this year, after a disappointing and controversial loss to ACC-member N.C. State 11 days ago.

LSU is 5-2 and has some decent athletes on its team. Villanova, though, will be favored, and should win this game, especially considering the Wildcats' overwhelming superiority in the backcourt.

Greycat runs a preview of the game at Villanova by the Numbers.

If you'd like to take part in the season-long prognostication contest here at LetsGoNova.com, enter your prediction for the game's final score in the comments section below.

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02 December 2007

'Nova overwhelms Penn to tie Big Five record

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/02/2007 03:42:00 AM

Villanova 87
Penn 61

(box score)

Penn: 2-6 (0-0 Ivy, 0-1 B5)
#21 Villanova: 5-1 (0-0 BE, 1-0 B5)

Next game: vs. Louisiana State, 12/6 at the Wachovia Center.

Villanova cruised past the University of Pennsylvania Quakers Saturday night at the Pavilion to extend its Big-Five win streak to 12, tying the city series record.

If you love Villanova basketball, do yourself a favor and log in to ESPN360 and watch the first half of the Penn game again.

A week after the supremely disappointing loss to N.C. State in the Old Spice championship, Villanova asserted itself as a college basketball power, though admittedly against an inferior Penn team.

The first half, when Villanova was still playing its best players and running a stifling press, is a joy to watch. The 'Cats forced a staggering 20 turnovers in the first period, and scored 28 points from them.

Villanova also ran the Quakers ragged in the opening period, scoring 10 points in transition, and jump-starting 11 possessions with steals.

Villanova took a whopping 53-22 lead into the locker room, and after that, Jay Wright mostly called off the dogs.

The team still executed well in the second half, but discarded the press to concentrate on half-court defense. Jay Wright also used the second half to give his bench players extended runs, building valuable depth for conference play and beyond.

I'll get to my player analysis in the grades section below, but I want to use this space above the fold to point out how ridiculous a backcourt of Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds is going to be this year.

With forward Shane Clark nursing an injury, Fisher got his chance in the starting lineup, and he did not disappoint. I do not see any way that Fisher does not start, even once Shane returns. Whether it be Redding, Clark, or Drummond coming off the bench, Corey Fisher has earned a spot in the starting lineup, in my opinion.

Against Penn, Fisher showed why many consider basketball an art form, using no-look passes and devastating crossover dribbles to confuse defenders and delight fans. One of his crossovers even merited another GIF-posterization.

Scottie Reynolds is, well, Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds is one of the most gifted all-around offensive college players I have ever seen. He does it all: shooting, getting to the rim, distributing, and breaking the press. He is a weapon that could well lead Villanova deep into the tournament this year.

Throw in the smooth and efficient Reggie Redding, the sparkplug named Malcolm Grant, the potential scoring of Corey Stokes, and the hard work and leadership of Dwayne Anderson, and you have what is arguably the deepest and best backcourt in America.

While Kansas, Marquette, WSU, UNC, UCLA, and Texas have starters that get more ink, and Tennessee and Memphis have excellent depth, there is not a backcourt in the country I would trade straight up for Villanova's, especially considering that all the Wildcat guards in the rotation are sophomores or freshmen.

I hope uber-recruit Tyreke Evans was watching the first half of the Penn game, as well, to see a showcase of what Villanova guards can do when given the freedom to press, to run, to create, isolate, take it to the rim, and to shoot.

Given Evans's supreme talent (he dropped 50 points in his last game), playing time would not seem to be a problem, either, whether Reynolds and Fisher stay or go pro.

Congratulations to reader Matt Parente for most closely predicting tonight's final score.

Next up for Villanova is Big East/SEC challenge against LSU at the Wachovia Center on Thursday night.

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

  • Corey Fisher (S, 27 min)

    I thought of a lot of ways to describe Fisher's performance against Penn, but I can't improve on this: Corey Fisher made the Quakers look downright silly. Fisher handled the ball like a yo-yo, dizzying Penn defenders and embarrassing them. The only consolation that the Penn players might have is that the game was not nationally televised, because Corey Fisher made them look like they were standing still on the court. Fisher used his dazzling handle, speed, and confidence to put on a show at the Pavilion, and fans were not disappointed. Fisher scored 13 points on 4-9 shooting, including an outstanding 3-4 from the three, not counting a half-court heave as time expired in the first period. He seems to have cured his free-throw woes for now, going 2-2 from the line. He led the team in steals, with 4, and added 4 assists. Fisher ran the break expertly, forcing turnovers and helping finish run-outs. He did commit 4 turnovers himself to co-lead the team in that category, but his performance was nonetheless outstanding.
    Grade: A

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 25 min)

    Reynolds is one of the best scorers in the country. He also is one of the best passers. Against the Quakers, Reynolds scored 21 on 6-12 shooting, including 3-6 from three and 6-8 from the line. He led the 'Cats in assists, with 5, including several excellent passes to ignite and complete fast breaks. He had 2 steals and 3 turnovers. Corey Fisher may be the new and exciting Wildcat, but Scottie Reynolds is still Villanova's best player.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Stokes (26 min)

    Has anyone seen Corey Stokes's shot? You know, the one that earned him McDonald's All-American honors and that lit up the Wachovia Center in the exhibition against Bloomsburg? Obviously, now is not the time to worry about Stokes. After missing several practices for a family emergency, Stokes is still getting in the swing of the Wildcat offense. He is also learning to play the wing in the college game, which is a drastically different assignment than he had in high school. Stokes is a streak shooter, and will eventually find his stroke. It is just a matter of when. The Penn game definitely was not it, however. Stokes shot 1-8 from the field, including 0-4 from the three, to score 4 points. He did play fairly well otherwise, grabbing 5 boards and making 2 steals. He also committed 3 turnovers. Stokes's game is hardly one-dimensional; look for all aspects of his game to improve once he finds his shot.
    Grade: D+

  • Casiem Drummond (S, 21 min)

    Drummond is now a solid contributor in the post on both ends of the court. After a blistering performance against the Wolfpack, Drummond did cool off on the offensive end against Penn. Drummond shot 2-7 from the floor and 1-4 from the stripe to score 5 points. He really needs to work on his free-throw shooting, but he did unveil a new foul-shot routine this game, which hopefully is a sign of increased practice. Drummond grabbed 6 rebounds, and handled the ball well for a big man, with 2 steals and 2 assists.
    Grade: B

  • Antonio Pena (21 min)

    Pena had somewhat of a breakout game tonight. When all is said and done this year, Pena could be piece of the puzzle that takes the 'Cats as far as they'll go. If Villanova can get 21 frontcourt minutes out of Pena during conference play, the season is going to be a very successful one indeed. Pena shot an excellent 3-4 from the field and 5-6 from the line to score 12 points. He also led the team in rebounds, with 8. His defense was good, and he added a block and a steal to go with his 2 assists.
    Grade: A-

  • Malcolm Grant (19 min)

    Grant played 19 minutes, but for a 5-minute (or so) stretch, he totally took over the offense. He is lightning-quick, and blew by Penn defenders with baskets and sharp passes. Grant scored 9 points on 4-7 shooting, and dished out 3 assists. He was a little sloppy handling the ball, with 4 turnovers, but did bring his brand of hustle, instant offense, and intensity from the bench.
    Grade: B+

  • Reggie Redding (S, 19 min)

    Redding is growing more comfortable taking shots in the offense, which is an excellent development. He shot 3-8 against the Quakers to score 7 points. He also hit the boards, taking in 5 rebounds. He had a good all-around game, as usual, with 1 each of assists, turnovers, and blocks, and he had 2 steals.
    Grade: B

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 18 min)

    Cunningham did what he does best tonight, which is score and defend in the paint. Thankfully gone were the much-maligned (in this space, and elsewhere) 17-foot jump shots, and as a result, Dante shot a perfect 5-5 from the field. Shockingly, Cunningham did not have any rebounds, but his minutes were restricted by foul trouble. Cunningham also played 7 of his minutes in the first half, where the opportunity for boards was slim, with Villanova making most of its shots, and Penn not getting many off due to turnovers. Cunningham also added 2 blocks and 1 steal.
    Grade: B

  • Andrew Ott (9 min)

    There is no denying that Ott, even after redshirting last year, is a major project and has a long, long way to go. He did show brief flashes of potential, but they were tempered by long stretches of unskilled play. Hopefully Ott will improve and be able to contribute to the Wildcats' frontcourt depth.
    Grade: D-

  • Dwayne Anderson (8 min)

    Anderson handled the ball well in his 8 minutes at the end of the game. He did shoot 1-4 from the line, but thankfully the game was out of reach. Anderson is a solid end-of-game option, and is athletic.
    Grade: C

  • Frank Tchuisi (5 min)

    Tchuisi did not look half bad out there. His highlight came on the receiving end of a ridiculous Malcolm Grant pass, setting Tchuisi up for the jam. He missed 2 free throws, but did not look lost on offense or defense. Has some potential to develop into a relief player in the post.
    Grade: C-

  • Incomplete grades:
  • Jason Colenda (2 min)

  • Did not play:
    Shane Clark

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