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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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At 12:28 AM, December 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Up Sunday Night? Hmmmm...

You mean that updating LetsGoNova isn't your full time job?

Just kidding though, keep up the good work and thanks a bunch for the link to ESPN360.

At 1:35 AM, December 03, 2007, Blogger pete said...

haha I guess Sunday night is code for "before Monday morning when people read it at work."

At 7:40 AM, December 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't care how talented a two or three man back court is their tongues are going to be dragging by the end of the game facing our press with a four or five man rotation in the back court.

Should make for some strong finishes for the 'Cats.

At 11:22 AM, December 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

crap. I wish I though to check your site before the game to see the ESPN360 back door post.

Great recap as always.

Hope Corey Stokes wakes up...

At 12:34 PM, December 03, 2007, Blogger pete said...

anonymous #2 -- You can still watch the game in its entirety on ESPN360 if you like.

At 8:14 PM, December 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how I found this site but I did. Its pretty good. Although in this post I think you may have overstated Reynolds abilities a bit. Fisher will be better and Foye was better. Keep up the good work on this site though.

At 10:06 PM, December 03, 2007, Blogger DaveNJ said...

Ditto on the thanks for the 360 link. It's absolutely incredible. Nova managed to dismantle Penn, but that's not as big of an accomplishment as in years past. I'd like to see them carry the momentum into the LSU game at the Wach, where they could really shine on ESPN.

At 12:09 PM, December 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully the Big East will sweep the SEC. This would make the Big East the most dominant conference in college basketball. The Wach will be rocking on thursday.

At 2:14 PM, December 04, 2007, Blogger pete said...

I hope so too, Gregg--- but none of the good SEC teams are playing in the challenge.

At 5:38 PM, December 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this site where you can upload your own photo as part of the Lincoln Mercury “Dress Like a Wildcat” sweepstakes. You can also go and “Rate Your Fellow Wildcats” - you’ve got to check this out!

Click here to visit http://www.phillylm.com.

You can also win great weekly prizes – check these out:

* Jay Wright autographed basketball
* Two tickets to a future Wachovia Center game
* Two Big East Tournament tickets


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