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17 January 2008

Villanova exorcises its Demons

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/17/2008 02:19:00 AM

Villanova 76
DePaul 69
(box score)
(ESPN video highlights)

DePaul: 7-9 (3-2 BE)
#21 Villanova: 12-3 (2-2 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: at Syracuse, 01/19 at the Carrier Dome.

In many ways, Villanova's comeback win against the DePaul Blue Demons tonight was unusual. After DePaul defeated the 'Cats in Illinois two weeks ago, tonight's rematch tipped off in the Pavilion after 9 p.m. The late start seemed to energize the student spectator section, which was more raucous than usual.

Jay Wright also debuted a radically altered starting lineup tonight, benching Corey Fisher and Reggie Redding in favor of Malcolm Grant and Antonio Pena. A strange substitution pattern quickly ensued, with Wright yanking Grant after three minutes for the little-used Corey Stokes, who eventually played 25 minutes. Fisher and Redding, who together average 47.4 minutes per game on the season, combined for just 9 minutes tonight.

The Wildcats also overcame some questionable officiating by the three-man crew of Jamie Luckie, Karl Hess, and Brian O'Connell. Jay Wright seemed to vehemently disagree with many of the calls made tonight. In my opinion, the officiating was bad on both sides: Villanova suffered from some extremely unlikely fouls and violations, but got away with a few missteps, as well.

Tonight's win also had some familiar elements: lax defense by the 'Cats to begin the game, large halftime and second-half deficits, a furious comeback fueled by defense, an extended Villanova run (15-0 tonight), and a big jump in heart and energy in the last 10 minutes of the game. Even the official Villanova game recap makes reference to the similarities of tonight's win to other comeback victories this season, most notably the miracle at the Wachovia Center against LSU on Dec. 6.

DePaul's record drops to 7-9, but it is 3-2 in conference play, and coach Jerry Wainwright has a talented team on his hands. Senior guard Draelon Burns dropped a game-high 27 points, though he took 23 shots to do it. The real story, though, was the freshman swingman Dar Tucker, who scored 18 and is supremely talented. Look for Tucker to make noise as a Big East Rookie of the Year candidate, and for DePaul to make it into the field of 65 this March.

Villanova center Casiem Drummond, injured for the past month, returned to the floor for the Wildcats in the first half. Though he was largely ineffective and looked to still be suffering lingering effects from his ankle injury, Drummond's return is a good sign for the remainder of conference play.

Tonight also marked the further emergence of Antonio Pena, the redshirt freshman forward, who played a large role in the Wildcats' second-half comeback. Pena dominated in the post, and showed flashes of a brilliant inside-out game.

Perhaps the biggest personnel-related story, however, is Corey Stokes. Stokes had been completely quiet for most of the season, but came alive tonight and played 25 minutes, one minute short of his career high. It seemed like Jay Wright was determined to get Stokes going tonight, come hell or high water, and this time it appears to have worked.

There are two lingering questions after tonight's win. One is what happened to Corey Fisher and Reggie Redding. Jay Wright discussed his desire for a bigger lineup in the post-game press remarks, but that doesn't seem to tell the whole story. How do two players go from each averaging over 22 minutes a game to seeing under 5 minutes of court time? While size may have kept Fisher on the bench, Reggie Redding is about as big as Stokes and has arguably been more effective all season.

Corey Fisher, on the other hand, is simply too good to see 4 minutes of playing time, period. Though the Wildcats emerged tonight with the victory, I don't think benching Corey Fisher was the answer. There may be an injury issue I am unaware of, but none was mentioned in the post-game quotes. The 'Cats can still keep up a sizable lineup while rotating in the three point guards, who also happen to be Villanova's three best offensive weapons.

As someone calling for more time for Antonio Pena and Malcolm Grant, I was delighted by the starting lineup, but I was not happy to see it at the expense of Corey Fisher. Similarly, while Redding may need to cede his starting spot to Pena or Grant, I don't understand giving Stokes more than 500 percent of Redding's playing time, when they essentially play the same position and Redding has been better.

The other question that one could take away from the game is the health status of Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds was spectacular tonight, scoring 21 points and dragging the Wildcats to victory. Reynolds, however, collided with a court-side photographer late in the game, and seemed to be visibly in pain afterwards. Reynolds played the rest of the game, icing the victory with a late three and free throws, but looked to be in agony. The sophomore could not even complete the traditional post-game ceremony in which the team raises its hands in a v-shape in tune to the school fight song. Reynolds was wincing in pain and quickly jogged to the training room after the song was over.

Reynolds's injury did not look to be anything serious, but we will have to wait and see if his status for Saturday will be affected.

On a recruiting note, the hyper-mega-giga recruit Tyreke Evans was in the house tonight, and stuck around to see the Wildcats complete their comeback. Evans, by far the nation's top unsigned prep phenomenon, is considering Villanova, Memphis, Louisville, Texas, and Connecticut. His presence tonight can be interpreted as a good sign for the Wildcats, but Evans has not yet made a decision as to his future team.

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

Next up for Villanova is a trip to Syracuse on Saturday afternoon.

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 37 min)

    Reynolds once again bore the bulk of the Wildcat offensive burden. He scored 21 points on an efficient 7-13 shooting, and was 3-8 from the three. He shot a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. Reynolds handled the ball well, dishing out 3 assists and committing just 2 turnovers, even while handling point duties for large chunks of the game. He added a steal and 2 rebounds. You can't ask for anything more from a guard than what Reynolds contributed tonight.
    Grade: A

  • Antonio Pena (S, 32 min)

    Pena cracked into the starting lineup tonight, and showed why he earned it. The Wildcats' best offensive player in the frontcourt scored 17 tonight, including 14 in the second half. It was Pena's powerful dunk that finally gave Villanova its first lead at the 6:23 mark in the second period. Pena shot 5-10 from the field and an outstanding 7-8 from the foul line. He pulled in 9 rebounds, barely missing his double-double. He was a little sloppy with the ball, committing 4 turnovers. He added 1 steal.
    Grade: B+

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 30 min)

    Cunningham came alive in a big way against the Blue Demons after lumbering through a few games where his offensive game was on the shelf. Cunningham scored 14 points on excellent 6-8 shooting. He dominated the boards, coming down with a game-high 13 rebounds, a performance that was sorely needed for the oft out-rebounded 'Cats. Cunningham came up with 1 steal and committed 3 turnovers.
    Grade: A-

  • Shane Clark (S, 30 min)

    Clark struggled from the field, shooting just 1-7, and he was 0-3 from the three-point line. He was perfect, however, from the foul line, going 5-5, including three clutch free throws late in the second half. He also contributed well on the glass, grabbing 8 boards. He was exceedingly sloppy with the ball, however, giving up a team-high 5 turnovers. His defense was not very good; he was late jumping out on several made DePaul threes and looked a step slow all over the court. Clark rounded out his box score with 3 assists and 1 steal.
    Grade: C-

  • Corey Stokes (25 min)

    Stokes showed significant signs of life tonight. He clearly has good basketball instincts, as well. After starting out with a bricked jumper and a pair of misses from the foul line, it looked like it was going to be business as usual for Stokes, who has more than struggled this year. But Jay Wright stuck with Stokes to the tune of 25 minutes, and the McDonald's All-American found some success. He made 2 of his next 4 shots and finished with 7 points. He grabbed 4 rebounds, and notched one of the best assists in transition I have ever seen. Stokes probably earned his 25 minutes on the defensive end, where he played well. While I don't agree that Stokes should be seeing 25 minutes per game while Corey Fisher languishes on the bench, tonight was a solid foundation on which the talented Stokes can hopefully build upon for t he rest of conference play.
    Grade: B-

  • Malcolm Grant (S, 22 min)

    Grant played well in his first collegiate start, though he finished with just 22 minutes. I still think it should be more, but Grant did get into serious foul trouble tonight, as well. Malcolm shot 2-6 from the field, including 1-3 from three-point land, and was a perfect 2-2 from the foul line. He finished with 7 points. Grant led the team in assists, with 4, and dished out some truly amazing passes. He grabbed 2 rebounds and committed 2 turnovers. Starting was a good step forward for Malcolm, whose minutes should continue to go up, whether from off the bench or in the starting lineup.
    Grade: B

  • Dwayne Anderson (12 min)

    Anderson was apparently brought into the game to contain DePaul's big scoring guards, Burns and Tucker. Anderson seemed to have some success on the defensive end, but was not a factor on offense. Anderson scored 1 point on 0-1 shooting from the field. He had zero rebounds, steals, and assists in his 12 minutes, but did commit 2 turnovers.
    Grade: D+

  • Incomplete grades: Corey Fisher (4 min), Reggie Redding (5 min), Casiem Drummond (3 min).

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

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At 7:58 AM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Eric said...

Dwayne had 2 turnovers.

At 8:39 AM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pena only gets a b+? he was the best player on the court in the second half. he was the difference in the game.

At 8:46 AM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of you have been singing the praises of Pena; I have been skeptical; I an now a believer....

Hat off to the Student Body. Great job in keeping the energy level up even when things were not going well!

Hope Cas's injury did not reoccur; that's the big hazard in coming back too soon from a stress fracture.

At 9:58 AM, January 17, 2008, Blogger NovaFan09 said...

I believe Redding may have been in Wright's doghouse for the first half. While he didn't see any significant minutes in the first half, Wright threw Reggie on Burns towards the end of the game, forcing their biggest threat to shoot some awkward looking shots.


REBOUNDING: 14 offensive rebounds and 40 total rebounds. Likewise, DePaul only had 18 rebounds (4 offensive). This is how you win in the Big East, plain and simple. Limit the opposition's second chance shots and maximize each one of your team's trips down the court.

FREE THROWS: Villanova was 23-28 from the line, while DePaul shot only 69% at the charity stripe. What was once an issue, Villanova has seemingly found its stroke again, connecting on 82% of its free throw attempts last night.


PERIMETER DEFENSE: DePaul was 12-27, a .444 clip, from 3pt. True, some of the contested shots found their way in for the Demons, but too many of their threes were from wide open kickouts by the swingmen slashing into the lane.

TURNOVERS: 19 team turnovers.

I agree with Todd above, Pena should get the game ball. His tenacity around the rim energized the crowd, and in particular, the student section, forcing Wainwright to call a timeout and calm down his team. Once Drummond returns, I would love to see a frontcourt with the likes of Pena, Cas, and Dante.

At 10:00 AM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as im glad we won, We're still NOT playing good ball. Our defense has huge Holes. Depaul had at least 2 - 3 guys open on most of their possessions and they thankfully got cold from shooting. I hope to see some improvement in the next few months

At 11:48 AM, January 17, 2008, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

haha thanks eric.

obviously the 12 was a typo -- fixed now and Letsgonova regrets the error

At 12:30 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger pete said...

I agree that Pena has a tremendous game. B+ is an excellent grade! His 2nd half grade would be a solid A.

At 1:17 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel as if Shane and Reggie are on a downward spiral. Neither is contributing enough to warrant the minutes they've been getting all season. They both had excellent summer league games, and started the season well, but have been been sliding since. Here's my ideal lineup.

Corey Fisher (our best distributer and a scorer), Malcolm Grant (until Drummond is fully ready for starters minutes is a dangerous outside shooter off a kickout), Scottie Reynolds ("the scorer" that draws the defense in and can distribute), Antonio Pena (bringing the scoring, rebounding), Dante Cunningham (bringing the athleticism for cleanup, rebounding, and D), Casiem Drummond (when healthy brings incredible rebounding, D, and some scoring under the basket).

1st off the bench: Malcom Grant (once Drummond returns, he's our best energizer), Shane Clark (he's always brought energy from the bench), Dwayne Anderson (he's earned his).

2nd off the bench: Corey Stokes (one half decent game doesn't earn him serious minutes, however he needs some good minutes to help him with his progression), Reggie Redding (greater defender, but a liability in every other way).

3rd off the bench: Andrew Ott, Frank Tchuisi, Jason Colenda (they've got the best seat in the house).

At 1:36 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anderson should never step foot on the floor again. He is just not good. Shane Clark needs to see a serious decrease in minutes, which will open up minutes for Stokes. Starting line up? Reynolds, Pena, Grant, Cunningham, Drummond. Until Drummond is back you insert Fischer. Off the bench, and depending on the opposition, Redding and Stokes in. Limit Shane's time on the floor since I have never seen him do anything. This team will not win the Nat'l championship this year (if we get hot in the tourney (and there is not a guarantee we make it as of now) we can go deep. Really deep. This freshman class is more talented and deeper than any Nova class to date. Watch out as we become a Final 4 favorite beginning next year and years to come.

At 2:34 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any update on Scottie's injury?

At 7:26 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't doubt Anderson's talent, I just think that he seems a little bit tentative. In the Blue-White scrimage he showed that he has the most athleticism on the team (along with Cunningham)when he threw down some of those dunks. He would be much more effective if he was more aggressive.

At 10:01 PM, January 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

your grading is pretty retarded sometimes pete stop trying to defend yourself

At 10:37 PM, January 17, 2008, Blogger pete said...

If you don't like my grades, grade the players yourself and post them here.

Don't worry, I don't think my grades go on their permanent records.

At 2:26 AM, January 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been just four games into Big East play and I have to say I am worried Nova fans. Some of the coaching decisions made in this game and in games past I have to question.

Corey Fisher's minutes in the game were unacceptable. I could understand going to a bigger lineup for more physical play, but we were facing a team without a huge inside presence. We have to keep our scorers on the court, we need to mix in Fisher and Grant more often.

Shane Clark just seemed to dribble himself into trouble frequently. I will always cringe when the ball is in his hands. He has great talent but needs better decision making. As of now though, he needs less minutes.

At times it just seemed like Coach Wright just said go play on offense without much of a setup. It was just an atrocious first half offensively. The defense wasn't much better. All it seemed Depaul had to do was swing the ball around behind the arc and they would somehow find an uncontested 3 ball. I believe Depaul was last in the Big East in 3 pt percentage coming into the game, and they exposed us.

I just feel a team with this much talent, and a Big East without a runaway team, we can win the Big East this year. However, we have some big holes, and we need to fill them sooner rather than later. We need to have a more stable offense, and PUT OUR SCORERS ON THE FLOOR.

Starting 5: Reynolds, Fisher, Stokes (earned it), Pena, and Cunningham. With Grant and Clark getting in often. Redding and Anderson sparingly. Cas depends on his health.

At 12:58 PM, January 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scottie's Perimeter defense was shoddy at best.. another inflated grade for scottie.. I give him a solid "B" A+ for Pena though

At 1:39 PM, January 18, 2008, Blogger pete said...


I had no problem with Reynolds's defense, but you might have seen some things I didn't.

An argument definitely could be made that Pena deserves an A. The main reason I gave him a B+ were his 4 turnovers.

I don't understand your grade of "A+" however. What is the A "plussing" towards? Is there a better letter grade than A? I have been reamed time and time again on this site for not giving out A+, but if you think about it for a few seconds you will realize that "A+" makes about as much sense as "F-" or "giving 110 percent." F is the lowest grade, A is the highest grade.

At 3:59 PM, January 18, 2008, Blogger pete said...

forgot to include in my past post:

/unnecessary rant


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