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07 January 2008

Villanova edges #13 Pitt

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/07/2008 12:45:00 AM

Villanova 64
Pittsburgh 63
(box score)
(ESPN video highlights)

#13 Pittsburgh: 12-2 (0-1 BE)
#16 Villanova: 11-2 (1-1 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: at Cincinnati, 01/12 at Fifth Third Arena.

Malcolm Grant pulled another win out of his magical hat on Sunday as Villanova topped the 13th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers by a single point.

In a game where the pace seemed to favor the methodical Panthers, Grant exploded for 22 points, more than 34 percent of the Wildcats' total output despite playing just 13.5 percent of the team's minutes.

The Wildcats struggled to score in general, shooting less than 34 percent from the field. Despite shooting a much lower percentage than Pitt and scoring five fewer field goals, the Wildcats were able to grind out a victory. Villanova was also out-rebounded 43-31.

Villanova committed just 10 turnovers while forcing the Panthers into 22. Villanova also shot 11 more free throws than Pittsburgh, scoring 10 more points at the stripe.

With the win, Villanova likely salvaged its place in the top 25 polls after losing at unranked DePaul earlier this week.

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

Next up for Villanova are the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday night in Ohio.

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

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 32 min)

    Cunningham was back to his usual ways this afternoon, cleaning up on the glass and staking claim to the post on the defensive end. Cunningham led the team in rebounds, with 9, but did not do much offensively. He scored 6 points on 1-4 shooting, but did sink 4 of 4 free throws, including the two clutch foul shots that tied and won the game at the very end. Cunningham led the team in turnovers, which is becoming a little but too common lately, but also picked up 2 steals and blocked a shot.
    Grade: B

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 31 min)

    Villanova fans are so used to Scottie Reynolds shouldering so much of the scoring load that a game where he doesn't score may seem, at first glance, like a huge letdown. In some ways, they are right: Reynolds struggled early and often this afternoon on the offensive end. Scottie managed to score just 4 points, shooting 1-6 from the field and 0-5 from the three. In other ways, however, Reynolds played a solid game. Realizing early on, perhaps, that his shot was not going down, Reynolds did not jack up unnecessary field goal attempts. Reynolds shot just 6 times, and focused instead on ball handling and passing. Reynolds led the team in assists, with 4, and committed just 1 turnover, though it was at a crucial juncture of the game. On the other hand, it was Reynolds who made the winning pass into the post to Cunningham when the 'Cats trailed by 1 points on their last possession. Reynolds was also solid on defense. Obviously it will be better for the Wildcats once Reynolds (inevitably) rebounds, but it's hard to complain about the team's undisputed leader after a win over the 13th-ranked team in the country.
    Grade: C

  • Reggie Redding (S, 30 min)

    Redding, like many of his teammates, shot terribly today. Redding scored 4 points on 1-8 shooting. He had 2 assists and committed 2 turnovers. Where he excelled, however, was on defense, as he led the team in steals with 4. Redding contributed 30 solid minutes, but didn't do anything altogether spectacular.
    Grade: C

  • Malcolm Grant (27 min)

    By season's end, how many games is Malcolm Grant going to single-handidly win for Villanova? As silly as it is to describe a victory in a team sport like basketball as single-handed, it was applicable in the Wachovia Center against LSU, and it is applicable today. Malcolm Grant absolutely exploded against the Panthers, scoring a career-high 22 points. He sparked two separate 10-0 Wildcat runs that kept Villanova in the game, and accounted for all the team's points for long stretches of the game. Grant may be the best three-point shooter on a team loaded with long-range talent, and I'd never thought I'd type this, but he may be as good or better than Scottie Reynolds at creating his shot off the dribble. Some people are already anointing Grant as the team's best player, which I think is a tad premature, but he undisputedly is in the top two. Grant shot 6-12 tonight, including 4-7 from the three. The rest of the Wildcats were 2-15 from beyond the arc. Grant also was an excellent 6-7 from the foul line.

    It is a great comfort to know that no matter how much the Wildcats are struggling, no matter how adverse the situation, Malcolm Grant will be there with his unmatched competitiveness, energy, and offensive firepower. Grant's performance will spark great debates about his potential as a starter; indeed, Grant played so well at the end of the first half that Jay Wright deviated from his usual practice of opening the second period with tip-time starters come hell or highwater to go with Grant. As far as I am concerned, I don't care if Grant starts or comes off the bench as the Big East's best sixth man, as long as he consistently is getting around 30 minutes per game. Though Grant led the team to victory tonight, he was unable to be on the floor in the closing moments with cramps in his legs. He looked all right walking around after the game, however, much to the relief of Wildcat fans.
    Grade: A

  • Antonio Pena (21 min)

    Pena continues to improve by leaps and bounds, becoming more comfortable on the offensive end as conference play progresses. On a day when most of the Wildcats couldn't hit the broad side of the Pavilion, Pena shot well, 5-8, to score 12 points, second best on the team. He pulled down 4 rebounds and displayed his athleticism in picking up 3 steals. He handled the ball well, committing no turnovers. In my opinion, it is time for Pena to crack the starting lineup.
    Grade: B+

  • Corey Fisher (S, 20 min)

    Fisher could not seem to get it going today. He only saw 20 minutes of playing time, and couldn't really find his stroke on the offense. Fisher shot 2-8 to score just 4 points and notched just 1 assist. His 2 steals nullified his 2 turnovers. One of these games, Fisher, Reynolds, and Grant are all going to be on their games at the same time, and I pity the team who tasked with defending that backcourt triumvirate. Today, however, Fisher played a below-average game.
    Grade: C-

  • Shane Clark (S, 19 min)

    Clark continues to be ineffective on both ends of the court. Tonight's offensive showing was so ugly that ESPN's Sportscenter used clips of two Clark shots in the first half to illustrate the Wildcats' inability to shoot the ball. Clark scored 7 points on 3-8 shooting. He grabbed 3 rebounds, but did not notch an assist, block, or steal. He did not commit any turnovers, but did foul out of the game. Clark remains a vital part of the Wildcat rotation, but I think the time is right to give the redshirt freshman Antonio Pena the starting job at small forward.
    Grade: D+

  • Dwayne Anderson (15 min)

    Anderson couldn't get much of anything going tonight, but he did play solid on both ends of the floor for 15 minutes. He scored 5 points on 1-4 shooting and grabbed 2 rebounds. He did not make any major mistakes, committing no turnovers or egregious defensive lapses, but did seem to lack offensive firepower in a game where it was sorely needed.
    Grade: C-

  • Incomplete grades: Corey Stokes (5 min)

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

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At 11:05 AM, January 07, 2008, Blogger NovaFan09 said...

Totally agree with Malcolm. I like him off the bench, it is more valuable for a team struggling to have someone like that come and raise the tempo with him just stepping on the floor. As for Pena, a swap with Clark may be in order. Clark has proven his worth, and maybe him coming off the bench for a game or two with his experience combined with Grant's effectiveness will provide a balance this team is looking for.

Your thoughts?

At 11:38 AM, January 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would start pena over redding and let shane play his natural sf position. grant is much more useful off the bench as a burst of energy, but he should be seeing 20 minutes consistently from now on. we really need stokes to get going, we need a big scoring guard, malcolm scottie and fisher are all small and have trouble scoring over bigger defenders.

i don't really like the offensive sets we've been running either, it seems like everyone just stands around while one guy takes it to the hoop, and we settle for way too many jump shots when we have several guards who can all take their man off the dribble. i think scottie is best as a spot up shooter when fisher and grant are penetrating, he just has trouble getting his own shot against good defenders.

the biggest area that casiem being out hurts us is fast breaks. most people don't notice but with a big reliable rebounder the guards can get out and run more and not have to worry about rebounding, leading to more unsettled situations where i think we are best. we just haven't had that the last two games because of our inability to rebound.

At 12:44 PM, January 07, 2008, Blogger Matt said...

"In a game where the pace seemed to favor the methodical Panthers, Grant exploded for 27 points, more than 42 percent of the Wildcats' total output despite playing just 13.5 percent of the team's minutes."

I think you mixed up Grant's minutes (27) with his point output (22). you have it right later on in Malcolm's grade

At 2:28 PM, January 07, 2008, Blogger pete said...

crap, you are right... I will adjust the numbers now

At 6:47 PM, January 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree with the statement that Grant has proven he is worthy as a top two guy on the team. Reynolds and Fisher have a strong case, and Dante has been consistent among a group of inconsistent young players.

It's great seeing the Cats pull out a top 15 win with both Reynolds and Fisher struggling though. Like you said, if all of our guards get hot, watch out.

At 8:16 PM, January 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the starting lineup, how about Grant replacing Redding? They played well in the OSC with this three point guard lineup.

Also, I believe that Pena is capable of stepping up to start in place of Clark. A few games ago I had doubts about him, but he has now shown that he can play well against a very good front line. (Pittsburgh's)

At 8:52 PM, January 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no i really don't think we want to start grant....he becomes much more effective coming off the bench and giving them a boost when the others are a little tired....i love bringing him off the bench...redding is fine as a starter he is very consistent, and i think he is a very underrated defender...yes i would start grant before i would start pena but i would probably not start grant before redding.

At 3:40 AM, January 08, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that Malcolm has become invaluable to this team, but the Top 2 ranking is lofty (and that's coming from someone who left the LSU game with his chin down to his ankles). I think Cunningham and Fisher are 2/3 or 3/2. If Casiem were playing he or Malcolm would be our fourth best player (and I never saw that coming). Malcolm has had two monster games and had a good Stoney Brook game in the beginning, but has not contributed much in between. He also is not doing much in the way of assists or steals. His 3 pt shooting though has been nothing short of amazing.

I agree that we're a stand around team right now. There's very little passing going on, as evidenced by our game assists totals. You typically see this in very young teams, because the guys are used to selfish AAU basketball, where it's all about proving yourself. It's all 1 on 1 basketball (just like it was Scottie vs. everyone else last year), which is a waste of their depth.

I would like to test out Malcolm in the starting lineup in place of Redding. I think he could bring energy to our starting lineup. I also think Shane Clark is better suited for an energy role off the bench, though I still think Pena has a long way to go.

We shot a respectable 75% FT percentage yesterday, and we desperately need to consistently shoot better from the line if we're going to survive our bruising Big East schedule.


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