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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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At 8:45 AM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's about time.

I've been waiting for Dwayne Anderson to break through for the last two and one half years. Anyone who has been watching him knows you don't let him alone for a "Three Ball"....

At 11:10 AM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's wonderful to see them finally win! but this game was a bit too close for comfort. Also, where the heck was Malcolm?! his lack of playing is becoming ridiculous. i'm so glad we won, but now we've got Georgetown on tomorrow, which will undoubtedly be our toughest game of the season. I know we can do it, but they've got to know too.

At 11:41 AM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that Georgetown is going to be so annoyed from the loss to Louisville that they are going to take out all their anger on us. But if Cas can neutralize Hibbert we should be able to keep it close, and hopefully pull out a win.

At 12:09 PM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seton Hall 90
Nova 80

At 1:06 PM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahaha! are you kidding me gregg..if cas can neutralize hibbert...read that out loud and realize how silly it sounds..nova gets blown out as usual

At 1:11 PM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hibebert has never had a good game against us.(See no shot attempts in one game last year and only 8 or 9 in the other game.) Neutralizing Hibbert won't be a problem. I have heard rumors that Malcolm is transferring, thus the limited and then no playing time in the past 2 games.

At 2:36 PM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malcolm can NOT transfer!!! where'd you hear this?!!??!?! he's our best player!

At 4:14 PM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Dwayne Anderson!!

Well I think Seton Hall is an underrated team, and this is a very nice win. I think the Malcolm Grant rumors are just bringing down the program, and I hope it turns out for the best. We need Malcolm though, and I think we have a chance to do great things in the future. Hopefully we can get the Big East record up to 500.

At 4:53 PM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont agree with gregg because pena will be in the game. (thats BAD)

At 8:02 PM, February 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noun Verb Malcolm Grant! Fire Jay Wright!

At 4:04 AM, February 11, 2008, Blogger pete said...

Not once has this blog ever called for the firing of Jay Wright... you may be referring to readers' comments, which are out of our control and not necessarily indicative of our opinions.

At 4:45 PM, February 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a source very close to the Coach.. and he says that Jay has nothing but good things to say about Malcolm.. but Malcolm needs to get his Sh*t together..
Grades, etc

At 4:51 PM, February 11, 2008, Blogger pete said...

Well if that is the case, hope things can improve. Still, at the end of the day, it is partly Jay Wright's responsibility to get his best players on the court, whether that means solving problems or getting tutors, or anything else.


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