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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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At 10:04 AM, February 25, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha Pete,malcolm's size is the reason jay doesn't play him WITH reynolds and fisher not why he doesn't play malcolm OVER them... that is because they are better all-around players that make better decisions and run the offense better at this point.

your love for malcolm is becoming ridiculous... if it was a street ball game where you don't pass and shoot every time you get the ball i would play malcolm all game, but this is big east basketball and there is much more to being a good basketball player than chucking up shots and scoring in blowout games.

i like malcolm and he will be a big contributor to this team eventually but he is not ready to run the offense consistently enough right now. p.s. look at how much better we have been when we started playing dwayne and stokes as the 2/3 over a smaller lineup with reynolds, fisher, and grant.

At 10:50 AM, February 25, 2008, Blogger pete said...

Todd, If you want to go with the official reason, more power to you. I don't buy it. Grant is a good player and should see more than 1 minute per game...perhaps size is the reason we don't go with the three small guards all together at once, and I can see that. But why Malcolm doesn't even get in the rotation of small guards doesn't make any sense to me.

It's not that I "love" Grant -- it's that I think he is not receiving minutes proportionate to his ability. If it were Fisher who was getting DNPs and 1 min each game, I would be saying the same thing.

At 3:21 PM, February 25, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could a mister Evans be involved in this limited playing time?


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