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26 February 2008

'Cats lose control in sloppy defeat to MU

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/26/2008 01:48:00 PM

Marquette 85
Villanova 75
(box score)

#21 Marquette: 21-6 (11-5 BE)
Villanova: 17-10 (7-8 BE, 3-1 B5)

Next game: at Louisville, 03/02 at Freedom Hall.

Villanova might still be turning the ball over, even now, in the darkened and empty Wachovia Center, even after the Wildcats fumbled away their NCAA Tournament hopes like so many aborted possessions in the loss to Marquette last night.

So much for "Guard U," the term sports pundits have used since 2004 to describe Villanova's supposed excellence at recruiting, developing, and deploying dangerous backcourts. So much for "Villanova Basketball," the political slogan Jay Wright's been preaching since 2002 for taking care of the ball, playing aggressive defense, and playing a cerebral game.

Villanova's guards were humiliated last night by a real backcourt, coached by someone who knows how to maximize advantages and play to his team's strengths, in stark contrast to the tactical tomfoolery from the Wildcats' bench.

Marquette was led by a pair of NBA-caliber guards, supported by a few other talented backcourt dwellers off the bench. These guards actually got into the game, instead of languishing on the sideline while their coach trotted out a series of hoepless swingmen who couldn't score in an empty gym -- all in the name of "size" and "defense." Imagine that!

It's too bad that Villanova didn't have a tough, quick guard with a great handle and a phenomenal shot to relieve the two Wildcat point guards exhausted by two difficult games in three days and a relentless Marquette pressure defense. Apparently, that was not an option last night for Jay Wright. He preferred to stick with "size" and "defense" while Villanova struggled to even inbound the ball without turning it over.

So, what did size and defense get Villanova last night? An opponent who lit up the scoreboard for 85 points in regulation and forced 23 crippling turnovers. An opponent led by a 5'10'' guard, the smallest guy in the gym, who scored 25 points, and stole the ball 6 times. A lot of good size does you when your opponent is putting in uncontested layups.

What stings most about this loss is not that it takes Villanova out of the driver's seat for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. It's not that the loss drops Villanova to below .500 -- again -- in conference play. What is most infuriating about this loss was that the game was winnable. Villanova has the talent to play with the likes of Marquette.

What it has not had, what it may never have, is the execution. Tom Crean put on a coaching clinic in Philadelphia last night. I hope Jay Wright was taking notes. Forget about the differences on offense, where Marquette consistently created good looks for itself while Villanova flailed about and struggled just to maintain possession of the ball for the first 20 seconds of each trip down the floor. Look at the differences on defense.

When Villanova had the ball, which was not too often and often for not too long, Marquette unleashed a relentless pressure defense the entire length of the court. Nothing came easy for Villanova after an Eagles' basket, be it bringing the ball up the court or setting up an offensive set or -- heaven forbid -- getting a good, open shot. After a Wildcat basket, however, Villanova retreated, tail between legs, to a conservative zone defense. Marquette was often able to advance the ball to halfcourt with a single pass from the inbounds baseline.

Dominic James was hardly ever required to handle the ball, leaving him free to roam the perimeter and shoot three-point daggers into the heart of the Wildcats. There was hardly any Villanova pressure to defuse in the backcourt. The Wildcats got lured into a furious, fast-paced game, and then played as conservatively and as tentatively as possible against a team that was running full motor to press every advantage and exploit every edge.

Let's talk about halftime adjustments. With the Wildcats leading by seven at the break, Marquette needed to make some changes. The Golden Eagles went on to outscore Villanova by 17 in the second half. Tom Crean managed the game and his rotation with a level of mastery we won't see in the state of Pennsylvania again this year.

The loss last night has severe implications for Villanova's NCAA Tournament resume. The conventional wisdom is that the team needs 21 wins to receive an at-large bid, including at least one more marquee victory. With the Wildcats now at 17-10, a three-game sweep of Louisville, USF, and Providence, plus a victory in the Big East Tournament would probably mean an invitation for VIllanova. With a win at Freedom Hall on Sunday looking less likely by the moment, however, Villanova may have to make a deep run in the BET to have any chance to dance.

Congratulations to an anonymous reader for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for the Wildcats is a must-win game against Louisville, arguably the best team in the Big East in maybe the most difficult arena in the league for visitors, as well.

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

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 33 min)

    Cunningham took turning over the ball to an art form last night. He racked up 6 turnovers from the forward position, always an achievement. He did shoot the ball well, 6-8, scoring 13, and he led the team in rebounds, with 11. But my goodness, 6 turnovers? Remove Cunningham's turnovers and his line -- 13 points, 6-8 shooting, 11 boards, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 1 assist -- looks phenomenal. But Cunningham could not take care of the basketball, and turnovers were why the Wildcats lost.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 33 min)

    Pena was all kinds of sloppy with the ball last night. His 8 points came on 2-6 shooting, including a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. His 3 assists and 4 rebounds were overshadowed by his 5 turnovers. He needs to focus on making better decisions passing the ball.
    Grade: C

  • Corey Fisher (S, 33 min)

    Fisher looked great passing the ball last night, racking up 8 assists. He again struggled shooting the ball, going 5-15. He missed all 3 of his attempts from beyond the arc. Fisher had 2 good steals, but turned the ball over 4 times. Fisher did a great job of getting to the rim, but often could not finish. If he could practice better shot selection, make his layups, and take care of the ball, we are looking at a great Big East point guard. His penetration and passing are already up to snuff.
    Grade: C+

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 31 min)

    It was a difficult game for Reynolds, who had to deal with the unending pressure from Marquette all night. Reynolds did lead the team in scoring, on plausible 4-11 shooting, and was perfect from the foul line at 5-5. He struggled from the three, shooting just 1-5. He passed for 3 assists and had 1 steal. The big problem was his 6 turnovers. Reynolds needs to start taking better care of the ball, and it would be nice if he had some help from his teammates in that area.
    Grade: C+

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 28 min)

    Anderson played well, but he did not assume much of a role on offense, either. He scored 8 points on 4-7 shooting, but missed all 3 of his three-point attempts. He did manage to grab 8 boards and was a force in transition. He turned the ball over just once, but did not handle the ball much, either.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Stokes (25 min)

    Stokes may have been the player of the game for Villanova, not for his 13 points on efficient 4-6 shooting, but because he only turned the ball over once in 25 minutes. Stokes is now a competent offensive contributor, but needs to involve himself more in passing. Last night he did not notch a single assist. Stokes also seems to be making a habit of disappearing after halftime. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half, mirroring other recent performances.
    Grade: B

  • Reggie Redding (13 min)

    Redding's earned his part in the rotation for perimeter defense. Dominic James, however, scored 25 points. Redding is a decent defender, but I am not sure if his defense is worth the complete sacrifice the team makes on offense with Redding out there. Redding actually played one of his better games from the offensive end, scoring 6 points on 2-3 shooting. He had 1 steal and no turnovers.
    Grade: C-

  • Shane Clark (4 min)

    Clark made a nice three-point play in transition. His other shot, a clean look at a three, was not even close. He picked up a steal, but his defense was slow and ineffective. Clark also cannot handle the ball at all. Clark may be among the worst dribblers in the Big East. Suffice it to say that I do not think subbing in Clark was the answer in a game when Villanova turned it over with the regularity of a Rolex. To his credit, Clark did not have any turnovers himself.
    Grade: D+

  • Did not play: Malcolm Grant (CD), Casiem Drummond (foot), Jason Colenda (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD)

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25 February 2008

'Cats face Marquette in Big Monday battle

posted by NovaFan09
2/25/2008 02:00:00 AM

Villanova Wildcats (17-9, 7-7 BE) vs.
#21 Marquette Golden Eagles (20-6, 10-5 BE)

Date: Monday, February 25, 2008
Location: Wachovia Center (Philadelphia, PA)
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPN

Official 'Nova coverage: Game notes (PDF)
Marquette coverage: Cracked Sidewalks

Villanova, having recently climbed back to .500 in conference play, welcomes another top-25 team into town Monday when the 'Cats battle Marquette at the Wachovia Center.

Winners of four straight, Marquette is surging as of late after playing uninspired basketball for nearly a month. Guards Jerel McNeal and Dominic James pace the offense for the Golden Eagles, as both players average more than 13 points per game. Forward Lazar Hayward (13.4, 6.2) and Wesley Matthews (11.0, 4.3) both contribute to an extremely balanced offensive attack that accumulates close to 77 points per game.

Defensively, Marquette allows 63.5 points per game, due in large part to pesky guards and a swarming team defense on which coach Tom Crean has prided himself over the years. It is up to the 'Nova coaching staff to let the 'Cats know that they have been playing well of late, but to not let their recent success get to their heads. This Marquette team is as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the Huskies.

Keys to the game

Pressure James: Marquette's leading ball handler, James had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 7-to-1 in his last 3 games before the Rutgers match-up on Saturday. Keeping consistent pressure on James and forcing him into mistakes will disrupt the flow of the entire Golden Eagles offense.

Ride the hot hand: Stokes has got his confidence back, and we are finally seeing what all the offseason hype was about. Get "Strokes" the ball, and let him fire away.

Defensive intensity: Villanova's suffocating defense in the first 15 minutes of the UConn game gave the Wildcats a big enough cushion to withstand the inevitable Connecticut second-half run. Villanova has been winning games because of its defense which, in turn, creates offense. I would like to see 'Nova players front up Marquette's big men on defensive switches, limiting the post play of forwards like Hayward.


'Nova guards:
The 'Cats will be matched up against a veteran backcourt, with McNeal and James both being juniors. While all of the 'Nova guards are underclassmen, they have the ability to raise their maturity and play like leaders themselves. If 'Nova can either stop James and McNeal defensively, or have their way with them when on offense, Villanova will come out a winner.

You may comment on the keys to the game and predict the game's final score in the comments section below.

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24 February 2008

'Nova back on bubble with win over UConn

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/24/2008 11:40:00 PM

Villanova 67
Connecticut 65
(box score)

#13 Connecticut: 21-6 (10-4 BE)
Villanova: 17-9 (7-7 BE, 3-1 B5)

Next game: vs. Marquette, 02/25 at the Wachovia Center.

Villanova took a huge step towards an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with a win over the 13th-ranked UConn Huskies.

UConn had won 10 straight games before running into the hungry Wildcats who have been fighting for their at-large lives since cracking a five-game losing streak earlier this month.

Villanova has now won four of its last five games, its only loss coming at Georgetown on a poorly regarded foul call with one-tenth of a second left on the clock.

Villanova's win also moves the Wildcats to .500 in conference play, and mostly solidifies the team's appearance in the Big East Tournament next month in New York.

The Wildcats used a high-energy attack on both ends of the ball to down the Huskies. Villanova had 13 points off turnovers compared to UConn's 8, and scored 9 fast-break points while allowing no run-out points for the Huskies.

Villanova also enjoyed a 20-3 advantage in bench points, mostly thanks to the efforts of the freshman Corey Stokes, who seems like he has finally found his shooting touch.

Be sure to check out the quantitative recap of the game posted at Villanova by the Numbers. Head over to Nova News for a UConn-Villanova top-ten list.

The students at "I Bleed Blue and White" have also posted some brief thoughts on the game.

A mostly-full Wachovia Center seemed to greatly aid the Wildcats on Saturday, especially in tough moments. This should help dispel any arguments that big-time games be moved on campus. In my opinion, the Wachovia Center provides an excellent homecourt advantage and lends a "big game" atmosphere to the proceedings.

It will be interesting to see if Monday night's game can attract as significant a crowd as the 'Cats look to solidify its NCAA resume vs. Marquette.

Congratulations to an anonymous reader for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for the Wildcats is another game at the Wachovia Center against the Marquette Golden Eagles. A win would put Villanova on the inside track for an at-large NCAA bid even with a loss in Freedom Hall next weekend.

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

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 39 min)

    Cunningham played one of his best defensive games of the year. He banged down low with Hasheem Thabeet all game and held his own. Cunningham scored 9 points on 4-11 shooting and pulle din 5 rebounds. His defense, again, was the real story, as he patrolled the paint and helped hold the Huskies to just 24 points in the key. Cunningham also came up with a ridiculous 5 steals to lead the team.
    Grade: B+

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 35 min)

    Just like he did in last year's win over Uconn, Reynolds put the team on his back and refused to lose the game. Reynolds scored 18 points Saturday on 7-14 shooting, including 4 huge three pointers on 8 attempts. Reynolds also scored the last field goal for the 'Cats, a crucial layup over Thabeet to put the 'Cats ahead by four with 39 seconds left. Reynolds also co-led the team in assists on Saturday, with 4. He added 2 rebounds and had just 2 turnovers despite shouldering point duties for much of the game.
    Grade: A-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 31 min)

    Pena played 31 hard minutes on Saturday, battling with UConn's big men on both ends of the court. He had a break-out moment in the second period where he scored a layup and a dunk on two straight possessions. Pena finished with 10 points on 5-12 shooting. He grabbed 5 boards, dished out 1 assist, and committed 2 turnovers.
    Grade: B-

  • Corey Stokes (29 min)

    Stokes had a huge first half, stroking 4 three-pointers, before cooling down in the second. He shot 7-12 overall, including 4-7 from the three, and missed his only free-throw attempt. He had 1 rebound and 1 block, and did not notch any steals, assists, or turnovers. It was a solid game from Stokes, and it appears the McDonald's All American is now a legitimate threat from the three-point line.
    Grade: B+

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 27 min)

    Anderson 's insertion into the staring lineup has provided a huge boost to the 'Cats in terms of hustle, energy, and rebounding. Anderson, playing the wing, once again led the team in rebounds on Saturday, with 7. His threat as a scorer seems to vary by game; on Saturday he was just 2-4 from the field and a poor 1-3 from the foul line. He handled the ball very well, passing for 2 assists and committing 0 turnovers. He also played arguably the best defense of the game, grabbing 3 steals and showing lateral quickness on the perimeter.
    Grade: B+

  • Corey Fisher (S, 18 min)

    Fisher's shooting woes continue. He was 1-6 from the field and 3-4 from the line on Saturday. His passing, however, was once again brilliant. Fisher racked up 4 assists in just 18 minutes, and looked fantastic running the fast break. If he can just find his shooting stroke and tweak his shot selection, Fisher will develop into one of the Big East's best point guards. Fisher handled the ball reasonably well, but did commit 2 turnovers.
    Grade: B-

  • Reggie Redding (13 min)

    Redding was brought in to defense UConn's guards, primarily Big-East player of the year contender AJ Price. Redding did a reasonably good job on Price, but I don't agree with Wright that it was necessary to sub him in on every defensive possession in crunch time. Sure, it works out well when there is a stoppage of play every trip down the court, but I can't help but wonder whether or not that strategy will backfire in future close games when Wright cannot sub Reynolds or another offensive thread back in before the 'Cats get the ball. Redding has been fairly hopeless on offense lately. On Saturday, he was 0-3 from the field for no points. He did handle the ball well, dishing out 2 assists and committing 1 turnover, a controversial 5-second violation. His defense was good.
    Grade: C+

  • Shane Clark (7 min)

    Clark sank a pair of free throws but again played poorly in his 7 minutes of court time. I don't know why Clark has seemingly regressed so thoroughly. Clark may indeed be suffering from fatigue, and if so, we wish him a speedy recovery. In any event, Clark's defense has suffered this year, and he is something of a liability on the court in recent outings.
    Grade: D

  • Malcolm Grant (1 min)

    Despite a Philadelphia Inquirer article ostensibly "debunking" all rumors about Malcolm Grant's lack of playing time, I am nowhere near convinced that size considerations are the only factor. Grant is simply too good to sit the entire game, size be damned. Fisher and Grant are about the same size; even if you assume that there are only 20 minutes for the "small guard" in the 200 minutes of game time, should the split really be 18-1 in Fisher's favor? And that's assuming that a bigger lineup is necessarily better. There continue to be times, even during this win streak, that the offense sputters and simply cannot score. At those times, Malcolm Grant would be a welcome presence out there, and I simply do not understand why Jay Wright has come to such a different conclusion.
    Grade: Incomplete

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

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22 February 2008

'Cats look to cool down Huskies

posted by NovaFan09
2/22/2008 04:00:00 PM

Villanova Wildcats (16-9, 6-7 BE) vs.
#13 Connecticut Huskies (21-5, 10-3 BE)

Date: Saturday, February 23, 2008
Location: Wachovia Center (Philadelphia, PA)
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPN

Official 'Nova coverage: Official Site
UConn coverage: UConn blog (excellent blog by UConn beat writer)

Villanova welcomes the nation's hottest team to the Wachovia Center Saturday, as the 13th-ranked Connecticut Huskies travel to Philadelphia to take on the streaking Wildcats for a matinée matchup.

Losers of three of their first six conference games, the Huskies have ripped off 10 straight victories and now stand at 10-3 in the Big East, just a half-game back of Georgetown and Louisville.

Like Villanova, Connecticut doesn't carry a senior on the roster. The maturity of their underclassmen, however, has increased tenfold from a year ago. Anchoring an imposing frontline is likely the Big East's most improved player, Hasheem Thabeet. The 7'3" sophomore not only chips in 10.3 ppg and 7.9 rpg, but leads the conference in blocked shots with 115, a 4.4 per-game average. Jeff Adrien (14.4 ppg and 9.2 rpg) and Stanley Robinson solidify the frontcourt for UConn, which as a team averagea 42.5 rebounds each game.

A.J. Price has put behind his off-court issues and has put it together this season. The reigning Big East player of the week, Price averaged 24.5 points and 8 assists last week in wins versus Notre Dame and South Florida. In light of Jerome Dyson's alcohol-related suspension, Craig Austrie has proven to be a valuable replacement.

Keys to the game

Emphasize rebounding:
UConn is an extremely efficient rebounding team. Villanova, despite its size, is a very good rebounding team, as well. To win this game and halt the Huskies, 'Nova needs to clean up the glass. This assignment starts with Cunningham, Pena, and, to an extent, Dwayne Anderson.

Penetrate: Villanova's guards can not be afraid to take it to the rim. Two of the better dribble-drive penetrators in the Big East, Fisher and Reynolds, should take it to Thabeet and get him in foul trouble early. Remember last year when Scottie went off for 40 points. It was his effective penetration that made defenders play a step off of him, allowing for Scottie to drain open threes, as well.

Start hot: Getting off to a fast start will be of the utmost importance. Wednesday night, 'Nova took WVU out of the game from the get go. If 'Nova can start strong this game and build a quick lead, it may go a long way into getting into UConn's head.


Wachovia crowd:
Nothing compares to the Pavilion, where the 'Cats are undefeated on the season. Unfortunately, Villanova tends to choose revenue over home-court advantage when it comes to scheduling primetime matchups, with the majority of them being played out at the Wach. While the crowd acts as a sixth man for 'Nova at the Pavilion, it has essentially been taken out of games this year at the Wachovia Center. Blame it on the size of the arena or what have you, but something is not right. 'Nova fans need to get loud and keep the noise high all game to help guide the 'Cats to victory.

Remember to predict the final score and post your own thoughts on what should be a great match-up.

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21 February 2008

All-American Tyreke faces #1 St. Anthony tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/21/2008 01:11:00 PM
Villanova recruit Tyreke Evans, the top senior in the country, was named a McDonald's All-American on Tuesday, and will play the biggest game of his career tonight live on ESPN against nationwide #1 St. Anthony.

It appears to be a pretty big week for Tyreke.

Evans, who eliminated Louisville from this list of his potential college destinations, is now down to Memphis, Villanova, Texas, Connecticut, and Seton Hall. Though he claims that no school is a favorite, smart money has him signing with Memphis sometime after his recruiting trip there Friday.

Villanova remains in the hunt, and many consider the Main Line clearly in Tyreke's top two options.

Evans and his American Christian team travel to Jersey City, N.J. for St. Anthony, the undisputed top team in high school, for the 9 p.m. game. Five more big-time recruits will also play tonight, including St. Anthony guard Dom Cheek, another top priority for Jay Wright's recruiting efforts.

The New York Times runs a long story today about Evans's childhood and background.

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'Nova cruises past WVU

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/21/2008 01:41:00 AM

Villanova 78
West Virginia 56
(box score)

West Virginia: 18-8 (7-6 BE)
Villanova: 16-9 (6-7 BE, 3-1 B5)

Next game: vs. Connecticut, 02/23 at the Wachovia Center.

Villanova used a stifling defense paired with efficient shooting to blow out the West Virginia Mountaineers tonight in the Pavilion.

It was the second straight win for the Wildcats, who have won three of their last four contests after a disastrous five-game losing streak.

The win puts Villanova "on the bubble of the bubble of the bubble," before the Wildcats face three consecutive top-25 teams in Connecticut, Marquette, and Louisville.

Win two of those three, and take care of business against USF, and all of a sudden the Wildcats are on the bubble of the bubble.

One or two wins in Madison Square Garden would then place Villanova on the good side of the final bubble, the one for the NCAA Tournament.

Enough talk about bubbles, though. We are getting ahead of ourselves.

Villanova played an excellent game tonight at the Pavilion, and used season-best performances from Corey Stokes and Dwayne Anderson to put away the Mountaineers.

The Wildcat defense allowed the Mountaineers just a 35.6 percent shooting performance. West Virginia shot an atrocious 2-20 from the three, but several of those were missed open looks. If the Mountaineers could have drained those shots, the game would have been closer.

For more thoughts on the game, see the transcript of the live blog.

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

Next up for the Wildcats is arguably the biggest game of the year, a home battle at the Wachovia Center against the UConn Huskies. Connecticut, winners of 10 straight, is the hottest teams in the Big East.

A win for the 13th-ranked Huskies would help them crack the top 10; a victory for Villanova would be the best entry on any NCAA resume the Wildcats would put forward next month.

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

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 31 min)

    Anderson lit it up tonight in the first half. Dwayne notched the best scoring game of the season, sinking 5 of 7 three pointers to score 17 points, all in the first period. Anderson also played an excellent defensive game, coming up with a team-high 4 steals. He grabbed 3 rebounds, and had 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 turnover. Anderson showed excellent hustle, and proved he could knock down open shots. He still seems to have some difficulty creating shots for himself, but if Villanova can get this kind of performance from Anderson consistently, the future looks bright.
    Grade: A-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 22 min)

    Cunningham didn't dominate the paint, but he held his own. Dante shot an excellent 4-6 from the field to score 8 points, but he only managed to pick up 3 rebounds. He had 2 big blocks, 1 steal, and 1 turnover. It was a good game for Cunningham, but his rebounding could improve.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 26 min)

    Pena just missed the double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing a team-high 9 boards. He shot well, 3-5 from the field, and was a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. Pena dished out 3 assists, and had 1 turnover, block, and steal each. Pena's rebounding performance was excellent, and his inside presence seems to grow each game.
    Grade: B+

  • Corey Fisher (S, 26 min)

    Fisher looked like a great point guard tonight despite shooting just 2-8 from the field. Fisher missed all 3 of his three point attempts, but was a perfect 5-5 from the stripe to finish with 9 points. He led the team in assists, with 6, and handled the ball reasonably well, turning the ball over 2 times. He still seems to have some problems with shot selection, and he is definitely better running in transition or taking the ball on breakdowns than on set plays, but Fisher is developing into a tough Big East point guard.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Stokes (21 min)

    Stokes followed up a good performance against the Red Storm with another good game tonight. He scored a career-high 16 points on 5-12 shooting, including 3-8 from the three. Stokes has definitely improved his three-point shot recently in the season. Corey added 5 rebounds from the wing-guard position, and had 1 assist and no turnovers.
    Grade: B+

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 18 min)

    Reynolds struggled with early foul trouble and was held scoreless before heating up for 9 points in the second period. Reynolds only took 4 shots, making 2 of them, both three pointers. He shot well from the free-throw line, going 3-4. He had 1 turnover and did not notch a rebound, steal, or assist. It was definitely a below-average game for Reynolds, but it was good to see him get going in the second half. Reynolds will need to do more than this to defeat the surging UConn Huskies on Saturday; it's a good thing he dropped 40 on them the last times the two teams met, a year ago in Connecticut.
    Grade: C-

  • Malcolm Grant (14 min)

    Despite baseless rumors to the contrary on the Interwebs, Malcolm Grant was dressed and ready to play for the Wildcats. While the announcers spewed the latest company line about Grant being relegated to the bench for size considerations, avid followers of the program know there has to be more to the story, though we may never find out exactly what. Grant did not play altogether well in his 14 minutes. He shot 0-2 from the field, and had 2 turnovers. The good news is that he looked good handling the ball otherwise, dishing out 2 nice assists. I'd like to see Grant get a more extended run so he can get into a scoring groove; maybe Connecticut will be his break-out game like it was for Reynolds last year.
    Grade: D+

  • Shane Clark (14 min)

    Clark didn't look spectacular, but played one of his better games recently. The announcers mentioned that he'd been tested for mononucleosis in an effort to explain his mysterious fatigue. Clark did look less lethargic in the first half, and his offensive performance was a tad better than his past few debacles. Clark scored 4 points on 1-3 shooting, and dished out a respectable pair of assists. He also was able to get his hands on 3 rebounds. That said, he looked weak with the ball, and still cannot handle the ball with any efficiency. Clark committed 1 official turnover, but his 2 missed shots were so weak they were practically turnovers themselves. Clark's defense looked a step slow, as well. Still, his 14 minutes were a small step forward for the struggling junior captain, and hopefully he can continue to make progress.
    Grade: C-

  • Reggie Redding (13 min)

    Redding managed 1 steal, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 missed shot, and 2 turnovers in a practically invisible run of 13 minutes. His defense was decent, however, and Redding is a noticeably better defender than many of Villanova's scoring guards. One just wishes that Redding could be a factor on offense, at least once.
    Grade: D+

  • Casiem Drummond (10 min)

    Drummond had two big buckets on perfect 2-2 shooting, but was just 1-3 from the foul line. He only was able to grab 1 rebound in his 10 minutes. He also committed 2 turnovers. Drummond's ankle was said to be hurting, so you have to take this performance with a grain of salt/
    Grade: D+

  • Incomplete grades: Jason Colenda (3 min), Frank Tchuisi (2 min)

  • Did not play: None.

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20 February 2008

Live blog tonight for WVU

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/20/2008 11:59:00 AM

Join LetsGoNova.com for an interactive live blog tonight during the West Virginia game.

The game will air at 8 p.m. on WPHL in Philadelphia and SNY in New York. Check this post at game time for the live blog.

The Wildcats will take to their home court tonight as solid underdogs. West Virginia is favored by two points in the sportsbooks, and the statistical guru KenPom and his model predict a six-point Mountaineer victory.

Don't forget to check out NovaFan09's preview of the game, and to predict the final score in our ongoing contest.

See you at 8 p.m.

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19 February 2008

Villanova welcomes WVU to campus

posted by NovaFan09
2/19/2008 08:38:00 PM

Villanova Wildcats (15-9, 5-7 BE) vs.
West Virginia Mountaineers (18-7, 7-5 BE)

Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Location: The Pavilion (Villanova, PA)
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
Television: WPHL (Philadelphia), SNY (New York)

Official 'Nova coverage: Game notes (PDF)
West Virginia coverage: Big East BBall Report

Villanova, riding a wave of recent momentum, looks to make it two victories in a row at the hands of West Virginia at the Pavilion Wednesday night. The 'Cats are undefeated on the season in the Pavilion.

Bob Huggins, in his first year as head coach at WVU, replaces John Belein, who fled to Michigan in the offseason. Under Huggins, the Mountaineers are allowing 61 points per game while averaging 76 points per game.

Huggins, a master recruiter who will no doubt steal many high schoolers from the rest of the Big East in the near future, runs a motion offense at West Virginia. The result is a dynamic and diverse offense with four players averaging double digits in scoring. Alex Ruoff (14.2 ppg, 42.9 from the three) and Joe Alexander (14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg) lead the Mountaineers. Da'Sean Butler, a Newark native and strong swingman, provides the Mountaineers with versatility at both ends of the court. WV is a veteran-laden team with a well respected coach. The 'eers should give Villanova a tough challenge Wednesday.

If 'Nova can maintain its defensive efforts yet again, the Wildcats will compete and win this game. WVU is not spectacular defensively, and its offense won't win any awards, but the Mountaineers are not a team to be taken lightly.

Keys to the game

Rebound: The Wildcats are 11-3 when outrebounding the opposition. Recently, Dwayne Anderson's positive presence on the court has combined with his knack for rebounding. Along with Cunningham, Pena, and Drummond, the 'Cats should be able to keep WVU off the glass.

Stay alert: 'Nova must not become flustered against the motion sets employed by Huggins. In West Virginia's last game, its relentless ball movement and passing frustrated Seton Hall, making the Pirates look very uncomfortable on the defensive end. The 'Cats must not over-help, because WVU can kill with the extra pass.

Protect the house: An 8 p.m. start should give the students plenty of time to prepare for this game. Bring the noise and let West Virginia know this is our house.


Dwayne Anderson:
DA seems to have brought the intensity 'Nova had sorely been lacking all season by playing tremendous defense, getting to the glass, and impressing the coaches with his all-around hustle. Right now, Dwayne is a complete upgrade over Shane, despite the height differences. If Dwayne posts numbers remotely close to his last two games, 'Nova should come out victorious.

You may predict the final score in the comments section below, or offer any other insights as to Wednesday's contest.

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Villanova outclasses St. John's

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/19/2008 12:00:00 AM

Villanova 60
St. John's 42
(box score)

Villanova: 15-9 (5-7 BE, 3-1 B5)
St. John's: 10-14 (4-9 BE)

Next game: vs. West Virginia, 02/20 at the Pavilion.

The big news at the Garden was not the fact that Villanova won, coasting for much of the game. Wildcat fans instead noted the return of freshman guard Malcolm Grant from his undisclosed location on the Villanova bench. Grant, who had been mysteriously benched for most of the month, saw 15 disjointed minutes of action in the runaway win over the Red Storm.

Grant's return should quell transfer rumors, but his benching remains uncommented on in any official capacity. Villanova coach Jay Wright kept Grant on a short leash, yanking him out of the game on a hair trigger. That Grant played at all is good news for his fans; keeping him benched for no known reason in front of his friends and family at Madison Square Garden almost certainly would have spelled the end of the Brooklyn-native's tenure at Villanova.

Villanova used a stifling defensive effort to hold St. John's to just 42 points, tying a season low for the Red Storm. Only six St. John's players scored.

The Wildcats complemented their tight defense with a balanced scoring attack, racking up 13 assists. Nine players scored for Villanova, including three in double figures.

The game was not perfect for Villanova. The Wildcats committed 15 turnovers and did not shoot all that well, going 43.6 percent on the game. St. John's at a quiet Madison Square Garden was not much of a test for Villanova, even though the win was a huge help for the Wildcats to avoid the disaster of missing the Big East Tournament there next month.

For an excellent post-game review with original efficiency research, check out GreyCat's analysis at Villanova by the Numbers.

Be sure to also take a look at Nova News and its take on the game, complete with tongue-in-cheek awards.

Wednesday's match-up against the West Virginia Mountaineers on campus will be a much better test to see if this Villanova team has truly rebounded from its losing ways.

Congratulations to an anonymous reader for most closely predicting the game's final score.

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

  • Malcolm Grant (15 min)

    Malcolm Grant fans can exhale a sigh of relief as Grant saw 15 minutes of court time in the return to his hometown. It still does not seem as if Jay Wright understands how to use the streaky Grant; Wright pulled Grant on and off the floor in a highly disjointed fashion that did not allow him to really get into the flow of the game. Grant, who saw his first significant minutes since Groundhog Day, looked fairly well on the court, but was off a bit offensively. He shot 1-4 from the field and had a nice drive for a bucket, but missed both of his three-point attempts. He committed 3 turnovers while mostly running the point, and dished out 1 assist. It was not the glorified return many pictured for Grant, but it was nice to see him back on the court at all.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 34 min)

    Anderson's emergence has really helped this Villanova team lately. Dwayne, once the sixth guard in the rotation, was easily the player of the game at the Garden. He shot 5-12 from the field to score 11 points, but struggled from behind the arc, where he was 1-5. Anderson led the team in rebounds, with 10. He notched 1 block, assist, and steal each, and committed 2 turnovers in his 34 minutes. If Anderson can find a more consistent stroke from the three, he could be a huge weapon for the Wildcats the rest of the way.
    Grade: B+

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 34 min)

    Cunningham put in a good performance in a game where he had little trouble asserting himself down low. Dante shot 6-11 and grabbed 6 rebounds. He notched 1 assist, 2 blocks, 2 steals, and no turnovers.
    Grade: B+

  • Reggie Redding (27 min)

    Redding contributed 27 minutes of solid defense and good ballhandling. He did not light it up offensively, but did shoot a respectable 2-4, and drained a three. He grabbed 3 rebounds, had 2 assists, and came up with 2 steals. He committed just 1 turnover. This is the type of performance that earns Redding minutes -- solid decision-making, good judgment, and hardworking defense.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 26 min)

    Pena returned to the starting lineup for his homecoming game. Like Malcolm Grant, Pena is from Brooklyn. Pena played well in his 26 minutes, but struggled shooting. He shot 1-6 from the field to score 4 points. He turned in an good all-around performance, however, grabbing 6 boards, blocking 2 shots, and passing for 3 assists. He also committed 2 turnovers. Pena is the Wildcats' best athlete on the block. Villanova's chances will be greatly improved if he can score and shoot more consistently down the stretch of the season.
    Grade: C+

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 21 min)

    Reynolds was plowing through a (for him) middling offensive game before turning an ankle midway through the second half. Though he did not return, the injury did not look serious, and Reynolds seemed able to walk without much discomfort. Reynolds shot 2-4 from the field, including 2-3 from behind the arc to score 6 points. He committed 3 turnovers and passed for 2 assists. There have not been any updates from campus on Reynolds's injury status, but it seems safe to assume that he will be good to go against the Mountaineers at midweek.
    Grade: C

  • Corey Stokes (18 min)

    Stokes finally turned in a good shooting performance. After missing three-point shots left and right (literally) this year, Stokes shot 3-5 from behind the arc and 4-7 from the field to score 13 points, leading all scorers. Stokes played well on the blocks, getting 5 rebounds, and handled the ball well. He committed just 1 turnover. This was one of the best games of the year for Stokes. If Stokes catches fire in the remaining six games, it would be a huge boost for a Wildcat team that often has trouble putting points on the board.
    Grade: B+

  • Corey Fisher (S, 16 min)

    Fisher followed up his disastrous 1-16 shooting performance at the Debacle in DC with a quiet game. He saw just 16 minutes of floor time and shot 2-4 from the field to score 5 points. He passed for 2 assists but had trouble handling the ball, committing 3 turnovers. Going down the stretch, it will be crucial for Fisher to be able to be a reliable second scorer, and to find the team a good shot if need be. So far this season, Fisher has played below the expectations of many fans expecting a savior from on high, but there are still six regular-season games and (hopefully) some kind of post-season left for Fisher to break through.
    Grade: C-

  • Casiem Drummond (8 min)

    Drummond lost his starting spot tonight and saw just 8 minutes of court time. He shot 1-2 from the field and pulled in 3 rebounds. I think Drummond has earned more minutes down low, but perhaps his size was not needed against the Red Storm. Look for Drummond to log more action against the Mountaineers and Huskies this week.
    Grade: C-

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min)

  • Did not play: Shane Clark (fatigue [?]), Jason Colenda (CD).

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15 February 2008

'Nova looks to take St. John's by storm

posted by NovaFan09
2/15/2008 06:00:00 PM

Villanova Wildcats (14-9, 4-7 BE) at
St. John's Red Storm (10-13, 4-8 BE)

Date: Saturday, February 16, 2008
Location: Madison Square Garden (New York)
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPN Classic (ESPN 360 simulcast)

St. John's coverage: SJU Redstorm || Official site || Johnny Jungle

Aside from the game-deciding foul call versus Georgetown Monday night, Villanova's defensive effort over the last three halves has been the defining story around campus and across the Web. After holding Seton Hall to 28 percent shooting in the second half, Villanova followed up with a solid defensive effort against Georgetown, limiting the Hoyas to 55 points.

With that in mind, Villanova should have no problem containing the Red Storm, who sit second to last in the Big East in points per game, at 63.3. After making only 12 field goals in a loss to Cincinnati Wednesday that snapped a three-game winning streak, St. John's is a paltry 4-8 in conference play, just a half-game behind Villanova for the final spot in the Big East Tournament.

St. John's is led by Anthony Mason Jr., son of the former NBA player. Mason (13.5 ppg) has missed the last three games with an ankle injury and is questionable for Saturday night. Freshman Justin Burrell is a solid second scoring option for St. John's, as he provides a decent low-post presence at 12 points per game.

It is important that Villanova continue its defensive efforts Saturday night as the 'Cats try to build momentum. Call it a hunch, but look for Malcolm Grant to get significant minutes -- by recent standards -- at MSG. It is my opinion that his lack of play has nothing to do with an impending transfer, but has more likely arisen due to disciplinary issues. (Ed. note: Novafan09's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of LetsGoNova.com)

Your keys to the game

For this preview I would like to try a new temporary feature. In addition to defense, use the comments section below to offer your own keys to the game. It will be interesting to see what 'Nova Nation projects as the keys and x-factors to winning this conference game. Be sure to also take part in our contest to predict the final score. The winner will, as always, be mentioned in the game recap.

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12 February 2008

Nation agrees in landslide: call was bad

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/12/2008 10:26:00 PM
The Villanova-Georgetown "Debacle in D.C." has reached the front page of ESPN.com, where readers can vote in the SportsNation poll as to whether the foul at the end was called correctly.

You can view continually updated vote totals by state at ESPN's SportsNation map.

After more than 65,000 votes, all 50 states and international voters agree that the foul was an incorrect call in the admittedly non-scientific poll.

At the time the snapshot of the vote below was taken, 77 percent of total voters thought the call was incorrect.

After 65,000 votes, respondents in all 50 states said the call was incorrect by at least a 2-to-1 margin, and mostly by much more.

In Pennsylvania, 84 percent of voters did not like the call. In Maryland and Virginia, the states closest to Georgetown's District of Columbia, the online voters disliked the call to the tune of 72 and 73 percent, respectively.

The avalanche of press coverage resulting from the end of last night's game can only help Villanova's cause in terms of reaching the NCAA committee on Selection Sunday, if the 'Cats manage to play their way onto the bubble.

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Media consensus: foul unjust

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/12/2008 05:35:00 PM
Last night's Villanova-Georgetown ending generated many impassioned reactions in the local and national media today.

The consensus in the media, which is giving the incident a lot of play, is that the call was not justified and unnecessarily altered the course of the game.

The Washington Post's "D.C. Sports Bog" does a great job of summarizing the ways the call was categorized in post-game reports. The post notes some alternative viewpoints, but most of the media reactions say that the call was unjust.

King Kaufman, Salon's national sports columnist, devoted his entire column today to the ugly finishes at Georgetown and in the women's Rutgers-Tennessee game. Kaufman, one of the smartest sportswriters in the field, said the foul should never have been called:

The game could have been wrapped in a bow and handed to the Hoyas, but that would have been more work for them than this was. They would have had to untie the bow.

Mike Francesca and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, the kingpins of sports-talk radio in New York, both agreed on their show today that the call was tremendously bad and cost Villanova the game. Russo said that the contact did not constitute a foul no matter what the situation, while Francesca thought that the foul should not have been called because of the game-situation and because Stokes's actions gained Villanova no unfair advantage. Francesa also said that if this ends up costing Villanova an NCAA bid, it would be a shame.

Mike and the Mad Dog brought on Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, who defended the official Bob Donato's call. Tranghese said that since Wallace stepped out of bounds, the only options for Donato were to call a displacement foul on Stokes, giving Wallace two free throws, or to call Wallace out of bounds, giving Villanova the ball. Tranghese said that neither option was appealing to him, but that he stood behind Donato. Russo said that in his opinion, there was no foul on the play, and that even if there was, giving the ball back to Villanova with under half-a-second to play was "the lesser of two evils."

You can listen to the entire Tranghese interview in MP3 format. He discusses the women's game first before his more lengthy segment on the Villanova game.

Art Hyland, the Big East coordinator of officials for men's basketball, told ESPN's Andy Katz that Donato was within his right to make a judgment call and charge Stokes with the foul.

Finally, you can watch the ESPN highlights and post-game breakdown by Jay Bilas in the embedded player below. Bilas repeats some of the points he made on the air during the game.

All in all, the incident has been covered heavily in the sports world today, which may help Villanova's chances with the NCAA selection committee should the Wildcats work their way onto the bubble in March.

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'Cats fall to Hoyas on dubious call

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/12/2008 02:53:00 AM

Georgetown 55
Villanova 53
(box score)
ESPN video recap

Villanova: 14-9 (4-7 BE, 3-1 B5)
Georgetown: 20-3 (10-2 BE)

Next game: at St. John's, 02/15 at Madison Square Garden.

The Wildcats struggled through one of their ugliest games of the year to find themselves in a position to knock off the #8 Georgetown Hoyas at the game's end, only to have their hopes dashed by perhaps the most questionable call by a referee I have ever seen in any sporting event.

With the game tied with 30 seconds to play, Villanova had the ball. Scottie Reynolds killed 20 seconds of clock and began his drive to the basket. On his way, he drew significant contact with the Hoya defenders, but no foul was called. As he attempted to pass the ball back out to the perimeter, the Hoyas got some hands on the pass and the ball rolled toward the sideline.

Georgetown's Jon Wallace finally gained possession with just a few seconds left and started dribbling along the sideline, 80 feet from the Villanova basket. After Wallace appeared to step out of bounds, the official Bob Donato threw up his hand and blew the whistle, calling a blocking foul on Corey Stokes with one-tenth of one second remaining on the clock.

With Villanova in the double-penalty, Wallace sank both free throws to ice the game for the Hoyas. (After me made the first free throw, he should have intentionally missed the second, which would have given the Wildcats even less of an impossible chance to win the game.)

The foul called on Stokes was definitely of the phantom variety. There was little to no contact, and any contact was initiated by Wallace's forearm as he pushed Stokes from his path. With under a second on the clock and Wallace's head down, 75 feet from the basket, there was no chance Georgetown could have scored without a foul called.

Another issue was why more time was not puck back on the clock, as Wallace either stepped out of bounds or the referee's whistle had blown with more time than 0.1 second remaining.

The call was instantly and persistently derided by all three of ESPN's announcers. As color man Jay Bilas pointed out, there was far, far more contact on Reynolds's drive to the basket than on Sapp's dribble along the sideline.

You can watch a video of the game's closing seconds below in the embedded YouTube player:

I would hope that Villanova would lodge an official protest with the Big East Conference regarding this foul call.

On the one hand, Villanova played a top-10 team to a draw on its home court, and was robbed of overtime and a possible victory by a foul call not one in a 100 referees would make. On the other hand, Villanova did not play especially well, and it was a miracle the 'Cats were even in the game at the end.

Villanova struggled immensely to score, especially in the second half. The Wildcats connected on just 14 field goals in the entire game, and missed 19 straight shots in the second period.

If you'd like to read more about the intricacies of the actual game, check out the Let's Go Nova live blog we ran during the contest.

Congratulations to reader "BPeach01" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is a trip Saturday night to Madison Square Garden in New York to take on the struggling St. John's Red Storm.

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

  • Malcolm Grant (DNP)

    The dramatic Malcolm Grant saga continues. The talented guard was dressed on the bench with the team, but once again saw no action whatsoever, for no known reason. If there is a good reason for his benching (and one would hope there is), Jay Wright needs to come out and say what the reason is. The silence, at this point, is not good for anyone. Despite rumors this weekend that Grant already decided to transfer, Grant was suited up and traveled with the team. That was the good news. The bad news for Wildcat fans is that the sharpshooting Grant was withheld from a game where Villanova missed 19 straight shots. Stay tuned this week as we hopefully learn more.
    Grade: DNP

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 39 min)

    Reynolds totally carried the Wildcats on his back Monday night, and if not for that horrendous call at the end, he may have even willed them to victory. Scottie scored 24 points on 6-13 shooting, including a decent 2-5 performance from behind the three-point arc. Reynolds was an excellent 10-13 from the foul line. It's really a shame that Reynolds had to account for 43 percent of the Wildcat field goals while playing less than 20 percent of the team's court minutes; someone else on the team needs to step up offensively when second-option Fisher is struggling. It was nice to see Reynolds get up for a dunk on a fast break tonight. If I am not mistaken, that was his first-ever dunk in a Villanova game.
    Grade: A

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 29 min)

    Cunningham just missed a double-double, scoring 9 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against the Hoyas. He only managed one field goal, however. Cunningham picked up where he left off against Seton Hall at the foul line, shooting 7-8 from the stripe tonight. He seemed to hold his own in the paint on both ends of the floor, and in general it was an encouraging performance from Cunningham.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Fisher (S, 27 min)

    Fisher turned in one of the all-time worst shooting performances I have ever seen in a single basketball game. You may want to sit down for this: Fisher shot an astonishing 1-16 from the field and 0-6 from the three. The fans they pull from the stands for halftime contests to win scholarships and car leases are more accurate than that. It was good to see Fisher, ever the gunslinger, try to shoot his way out of a slump, but sometimes enough is enough, especially when many of the shots were badly contested and of questionable discretion. Fisher also led the team in turnovers, with 3. His team-high 4 assists were the lone bright spot of Fisher's night and the only thing saving his grade from the dreaded "F." Fisher is a good player who will certainly improve upon his next outing, so look for a bounce back against the Red Storm in New York.
    Grade: D-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 27 min)

    Anderson started his second straight game and showed why he has earned the increased minutes. His hustle was apparent in all aspects of the game, and he co-led the team in rebounds, with 10. Anderson also notched 1 assist and 1 steal and committed no turnovers. After scoring 13 points and hitting the game-winning three against Seton Hall on Saturday, Anderson cooled off significantly in Washington. Anderson shot 3-9, including 0-4 from the three, to score 9 points. Anderson is playing well, and his size and athleticism are useful for the Wildcats. If Anderson can turn himself into a bigger offensive weapon, he would bring the total package.
    Grade: B-

  • Casiem Drummond (S, 21 min)

    Drummond struggled to put the ball in the hole, shooting 0-4 from the field and 1-2 from the line. He managed to grab 5 rebounds and did not get pushed around all that much by Hibbert.
    Grade: C-

  • Antonio Pena (20 min)

    Pena shot 0-2 from the field to score just 2 points Monday night. What happened to the flashes of offensive firepower he showed earlier in the year? Pena grabbed 3 rebounds and committed 2 turnovers. He led the team in steals, with 2.
    Grade: C-

  • Corey Stokes (18 min)

    Stokes started off strong with a couple of buckets, but his shooting struggles continue. If not for the dramatic Malcolm Grant plot, Stokes's woes from the three-point line would be the official mystery of the year. As the announcers mentioned on Monday, many scouts regarded Stokes as the best high-school shooter in the nation last year. Tonight, Stokes shot 3-7 from the field and 1-5 from behind the arc to score 7 points. He had 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, and a steal. It was not a very good game from Stokes, but you can't fault him for the foul at the end, simply because that foul should never have been called.
    Grade: D+

  • Shane Clark (14 min)

    Clark played 14 minutes and was totally ineffective. He was bad on offense, air-balling his only shot, a wide-open three point attempt at a crucial juncture in the game. He was even worse, however, on defense, allowing the Hoyas several easy looks. It's a shame to say this, considering Clark is an upperclassman and a captain, but he really should not be seeing the court at all these days.
    Grade: F

  • Reggie Redding (5 min)

    Redding missed all 3 of his shots and contributed nothing else to the box score but a turnover. This team is really missing Grant on the floor.
    Grade: D-

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (0+ min)

  • Did not play: Malcolm Grant (CD), Jason Colenda (CD).

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11 February 2008

Live blog of 'Nova-GT tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/11/2008 05:58:00 PM
Join Let's Go Nova for its first live blog of the season tonight at 7 p.m. for Villanova's game at #8 Georgetown.

The game will air at 7 p.m. on ESPN, and the live blog (below) should begin at tip time.

[Update] The live blog was a roaring success, but a bad call at the end of the game cost Villanova what would have been its biggest win in several years. If you missed the live blog and would like to take a look at it, you can read it in full below. (Just click the circular arrow.)

Feel free to also comment about the game and the call at the end in this thread until the recap and grades post is up much later tonight.

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'Cats head to D.C. to renew rivalry

posted by NovaFan09
2/11/2008 10:00:00 AM

Villanova Wildcats (14-8, 4-6 BE) at
#6 Georgetown Hoyas (19-3, 9-2 BE)

Date: Monday, February 11, 2008
Location: The Verizon Center (Washington, D.C.)
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPN

Official 'Nova coverage: game notes (PDF)
Georgetown coverage: Van Buren Boys || Hoya Saxa

Villanova travels down to Washington, D.C. as 13-point underdogs to the Big East's best team Monday, as the 'Cats look to push their record to 7-0 at the Verizon Center versus Georgetown.

The Hoyas are reeling after a loss to Louisville this past Sunday. Rick Pitino drew up an excellent game plan that limited Georgetown's offense.

After allowing nearly 81 points per game in their five game skid, the 'Cats limited Seton Hall to 28 percent shooting in the second half. Hopefully the 'Cats have turned the corner defensively just in time. Villanova is 12-2 when holding opponents under 75 points, and if Villanova can slow down GU by pressuring the guards in the backcourt, the game will slow down considerably.

Georgetown is led by Roy Hibbert, fueled by the stoic and stable guards Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp, and has considerable contributions from freshman Austin Freeman and sophomore forward DaJuan Summers. Through and through, Georgetown is bigger and more experienced at nearly every position.

Keys to the game

Contain Hibbert:
The Hoyas use Roy Hibbert in the same way the San Antonio Spurs employ Tim Duncan: the offense runs through the center position. Hibbert essentially acts as a second point guard for the Hoyas, because nearly every offensive possession starts with Hibbert getting the ball down low and either kicking it out to his guards or creating his own offense. While Jay Wright's in-game planning has been under attack recently, there is no denying that he can stop Hibbert, as 'Nova limited the projected lottery pick to one shot attempt in their first meeting last year.

Limit GU offensive sets:
Under Coach John Thompson III, the Hoyas run a very deliberate offense. In order to beat Georgetown, Villanova must limit the amount of time the Hoyas are in their offensive sets. Last season Villanova had success in pressuring the Hoyas' inbounding passes, and once they got past half court and called a set, the shot clock was already down to 15-20 seconds. Saturday night, Rick Pitino employed an effective press, forcing GU into 15 turnovers en route to a Louisville victory.

Protect the ball:
Villanova must play a nearly flawless game in order to come out of tonight victorious. If Villanova is able to limit the Hoyas' offense, the game then comes down to Villanova's offensive capabilities. Limiting turnovers and taking quality shots are just some of the things the 'Nova coaching staff must emphasize throughout the game.


Hibbert and Patrick Ewing Jr. make up one of the most formidable forward combinations in all of the Big East, and Villanova's frontcourt will be hard-pressed to limit the damage. As the nation's premiere low post player, Hibbert has an assortment of pump fakes and back-to-the-basket moves. Drummond, Pena, and Cunningham must be careful to not get into foul trouble and play solid defense. Ewing Jr., an explosive player, is more athletic and physically imposing than Cunningham, and is a defensive force as a rebounder and shot blocker. Look for the 'Nova guards to take it to him looking for contact.

Final thoughts

Villanova will have its hands full tonight, but this team has surprised me more than once this season. Look towards the bench during the game, to see if Malcolm Grant has traveled with the team, amidst speculation of a possible transfer. Grant has already lost one year at prep school, and if he were to transfer again he would likely sit out another season, making him a sophomore a full two years older than the rest of his peers. Here is to hoping these rumors are not true.

As always, you may predict the final score of the game in the comments section below. The author of the closest prediction will receive a mention in the game recap.

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10 February 2008

Sixth time's a charm for 'Nova

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/10/2008 03:27:00 AM
Villanova 72
Seton Hall 70
(box score)

Seton Hall: 15-9 (5-6 BE)
Villanova: 14-8 (4-6 BE, 3-1 B5)

Next game: at Georgetown, 02/11 at the Verizon Center.

Villanova snapped a five-game losing streak Saturday night with a win over Seton Hall in an extremely tight battle at the Pavilion.

Although the 'Cats finally picked up a win to end the team's worst skid in four years, all is still not right in Nova Nation.

It took a game-winning three-pointer by the unlikely hero Dwayne Anderson for Villanova to vanquish the Pirates in a close game that included 10 second-period lead changes.

Had that shot not found the twine, Villanova might be taking a 6-game losing streak into Washington, D.C. on Monday for a match-up with the best-in-conference Georgetown Hoyas.

Despite the win, the team still seems rife with discord and discontent. Star guard Malcolm Grant remained inexplicably benched on Saturday, seeing no court time at all in a very close game where his presence would have been welcome by many Villanova fans.

There is now widespread and persistent speculation that Grant has already decided to transfer from the team. While it is important to note that neither Grant nor the university has issued any official word regarding the situation, even the rumors of such a transfer are a serious distraction to a struggling team.

Needless to say, if Grant does transfer out of the Main Line, it would be a tremendous blow to the program, and the costliest premature departure of a player since Kyle Lowry's early-entry to the NBA draft in 2006, which came under much happier circumstances.

The story behind the Malcolm Grant situation has not yet been told, and whether it is due to complacency by the traditional media covering Villanova, or a university wall of silence -- or both -- one has to question what Jay Wright has done to try to keep Grant, unarguably one of the team's best players.

Whether the Grant situation is caused by disagreement between player and staff, academic factors, behavioral issues, talent evaluation, or all or none of the above -- and we truly do not know -- it's clear that part of the blame has to be shouldered by the coaching staff for not getting such a talent on the floor, regardless of the reason.

Jay Wright also continued to jiggle with the starting lineup on Saturday, starting Dwayne Anderson over the redshirt freshman Antonio Pena at forward. While Anderson certainly earned his stripes with a solid performance and the aforementioned game-winner, one struggles to comprehend Pena's demotion, especially when Pena has shown the potential to be by far the best offensive weapon for the Wildcats down low.

It is interesting to note that Grant and Pena, arguably the two players who have outright earned court time the most, are also the two players who have been benched disproportionately to their talent and performance, in my opinion.

In the press conference after the game, Jay Wright said that Anderson was given the starting nod over "the young guys" on the team because Anderson "knows what [the team is] doing" and the younger players "don't know what [the team is] doing yet."

Some bright spots on Saturday were the solid effort by Anderson and workman-like performances from Dante Cunningham and Corey Fisher, who each logged 37 minutes in the win.

Congratulations to reader "I miss Kyle Lowry" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is a trip Monday night to Washington, DC to take on the top dogs in the Big East, the Georgetown Hoyas. Georgetown was ranked sixth in the country this week and were winners of six straight games before falling at the hands of the surging Louisville Cardinals on Saturday.

It's going to take something of a miracle for the Wildcats to pull out the road win on Monday, especially with all the questions swirling around the team, but pretty much anything can happen in college basketball.

It's not quite the 1985 version of Georgetown vs. Villanova, but it's close: KenPom's model suggests a 17-point 'Nova loss, and the Hoyas are favored by a whopping 13.5 in the sportsbooks.

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

  • Malcolm Grant (DNP)

    The talented Grant did not play at all on Saturday. Rumors that he has decided to transfer from the team are widespread on the Internet, but no official word has been given. Whatever the reason he has not seen the floor, the Grant situation is unacceptable, as he is a tremendous and proven offensive talent who could help the Wildcats win now and in the future.
    Grade: DNP

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 37 min)

    Cunningham played one of his best games to date, notching 37 hard-fought minutes to sink the Pirates. He led all scorers with 21 points. He shot an efficient 4-6 from the field and turned in an outstanding night from the foul line, going 13-16. He grabbed 5 rebounds, blocked 2 shots, and passed for 1 assist. He did not commit any turnovers. If Villanova can get anywhere near this kind of performance out of Cunningham on Monday night, its odds of pulling off the upset are significantly improved.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Fisher (S, 37 min)

    Fisher exploded for 13 points in the first half and then missed all 6 of his shots in the second period, 5 from the field and 1 from the line. He finished with a not-great 5-13 shooting performance, but was an excellent 3-5 from the three-point line. Fisher also went 0-3 from the foul line, which is pretty much unacceptable for a starting point guard. Fisher dished out 3 assists, tied for most on the team, and grabbed 4 rebounds and 1 steal. He committed just 1 turnover in 37 minutes. Altogether it was a good night from Fisher despite the second-half shooting woes.
    Grade: B

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 36 min)

    Anderson played a good all-around game and finally seems to have enough confidence on the offensive end. Anderson has always possessed freakish athletic ability, and many fans are glad to see him at least taking advantage of his talents on the court. I have been personally calling for more court time for Anderson since he arrived on the Main Line, so it's good to see him get a career high 36 minutes. Dwayne shot 5-11 from the field, including a much-needed 3-6 from the three-point line to boost the Wildcats' firepower in that crucial area. He finished with 13 points. Anderson also led the team in rebounds, with 8, and in steals, with 3. He co-led the team in assists, also with 3, notched 1 block, and committed 1 turnover. This is about as good a game you are going to see from a Villanova swingman, and should earn Anderson some more minutes going forward.
    Grade: A-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 24 min)

    Reynolds took a back seat offensively tonight to Cunningham, Anderson, and Fisher, but still managed to score 10 points on 2-9 shooting. Reynolds was 2-8 from behind the three-point line, which is to say he only attempted one shot behind the arc. This appears to be too few for Reynolds, who usually earns several baskets slashing though the lane. Scottie was a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. He grabbed 3 rebounds, dished out 2 assists, and picked up 1 steal. He did, however. lead the team in turnovers, with 3.
    Grade: B-

  • Casiem Drummond (S, 17 min)

    Drummond played a solid if unspectacular game at the starting center spot on Saturday. He scored 8 on 3-8 shooting, and was a perfect 2-2 from the stripe. He picked up 5 rebounds before being disqualified with the same number of fouls.
    Grade: C+

  • Reggie Redding (13 min)

    Redding returned once again to his quiet ways. He didn't do anything of great note, but also did not seem to make any major mistakes.
    Grade: C-

  • Shane Clark (12 min)

    Clark continues to struggle this season. Clark missed the only shot he took, a three-pointer, and committed 2 turnovers in just 12 minutes of playing time. He had 1 assist and 2 rebounds to round out his line.
    Grade: D

  • Antonio Pena (12 min)

    Pena lost his spot in the starting lineup and did not even take a shot on Saturday. He did rebound well, grabbing 5 in 12 minutes. He also had 1 block, 1 assist, and 1 turnover. Look for Pena to get more involved on t he offensive end if the Wildcats are to return to their once-winning ways.
    Grade: C

  • Corey Stokes (12 min)

    Stokes did not shoot well again on Saturday, going just 1-4. He did, however, manage to sink 1 of 2 of his three-point attempts. He grabbed 1 rebound and had 1 turnover. Corey Stokes is going to have to play a larger role on the offense for the rest of the season, especially if Malcolm Grant is not on the court.
    Grade: C-

  • Did not play: Malcolm Grant (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD).

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08 February 2008

Struggling 'Cats host Seton Hall

posted by NovaFan09
2/08/2008 05:30:00 PM

Villanova Wildcats (13-8, 3-6 BE) vs.
Seton Hall Pirates (15-8, 5-5 BE)

Date: Saturday, February 9, 2008
Location: The Pavilion (Villanova, PA)
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPNU

Seton Hall coverage: Pirates Plank || Seton Hall Fanhouse

Villanova looks to avoid its sixth straight loss Saturday night when the Wildcats welcome the Seton Hall Pirates into the Pavilion for a Saturday evening matchup.

Seton Hall, allowing 78 points per game, got blown out by 26 points in Newark, N.J. Wednesday night at the hands of Notre Dame, and now sits at 5-5 in conference play.

Like Villanova, Seton Hall's offense comes primarily from its outstanding guards, most notably G/F Brian Laing (19.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.0 apg).

Eugene Harvey, a sophomore guard out of Brooklyn, is the team's second-leading scorer at 15 points per game. Sensational Bronx freshman Jeremy Hazell, who averages 12.4 ppg, has had monsterous efforts in conference play, dropping 26 on Notre Dame, 29 against Louisville, and 28 versus UConn. Additionally, senior guard Jamar Nutter averages just over 10 points per game but provides stability and leadership in the backcourt, allowing for the more skilled and talented underclassmen to flourish.

Villanova's backcourt should have its hands full guarding the Pirates' ball handlers, who have a tendency take their defenders off the dribble and to the hoop. Only one regularly playing guard (Nutter) averages close to 40 percent from 3-point range, so Villanova may be able to afford to play a step off their respective assignments, preventing Seton Hall from blowing by the likes of Reynolds, Fisher, Redding, and Grant. However, with the way the 'Cats defend the 3, this may not be the best option.

Although Sophomore center John Garcia pulls down 7.5 rpg, he has been held in check in Big East play, with most of his strong rebounding performances coming against the likes of Navy, St. Peter's, and Penn State.

Look for the 'Cats to finally pull out a win, much to the delight of the home crowd. Even with Seton Hall's offensive capabilities, I think the storyline of this game will be Cunningham, Drummond, and Pena's tenacity on the boards. This will prevent Seton Hall from accruing second-chance points and will allow for extra offensive opportunities for 'Nova.

Keys to the game

Pressure Seton Hall guards: As a team, the Pirates have an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.1:1. While this statistic is similar to most Big East teams ('Nova is 1:1 A/TO), playmakers like Hazell and Garcia have poor ratios of 1:1.7 and 1:3, respectively. Case in point -- If 'Nova can shut down the guards' dribbles and force them to pass, chances are the turnovers for Seton Hall will accumulate.

Energy: The problems facing Villanova lately have begun from the opening tip. Not only have the 'Cats been unable to keep their stride the entire game, but they are having trouble doing it for even an entire HALF. Somebody on this team, whether it be a captain, a role player, or an underclassmen has to let his emotions show on the court and put it all out on the line. Which reminds me, was anybody having more fun on the court in the 'Nova/'Cuse game last weekend than Donte Greene? His high-fiving of teammates, jawing with the crowd, and general attitude infected the rest of his squad and literally propelled the Orange to victory. That is what Villanova needs not only to win this game, but to save the season.


Scottie Reynolds:
Regardless of whether or not the rumor of a fight breaking out between teammates is true, Reynolds, arguably the face of 2007-2008 Villanova basketball, has to keep his team under control. Yes, he is only a sophomore, but a captain at that. Reynold's play is indicative of how this team performs and if Scottie can light it up and get others involved, Villanova will come out of the game victorious

Predict the final score

As always, you may predict the final score of the game in the comments section below. The author of the closest prediction will receive a mention in the game recap.

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