Final Score: Rutgers 80, Villanova 68
Player of the Game: Malcolm Grant 23 points (6-7 3-pt)
I don't know why Jay Wright waited until the last 3 minutes of the game to put his three best players on the court at the same time: Scottie Reynolds, Malcolm Grant, and Corey Fisher. As soon as Grant re-entered the game he put on an amazing performance, reminiscent of the LSU game, scoring 17 points in about 2 minutes. But by that time it was too little, too late. Simply put, Grant and Fisher need more playing time. Jay Wright seems to want to go with a bigger and more experience lineup, but players like Shane Clark, Dwayne Anderson, and Reggie Redding are not getting it done, especially on the offensive end. Villanova went for a long stretch in the second half where they failed to even attempt a field goal due to turnovers and blocked shots. As a team you need to maximize your strengths, and Villanova's strengths are its quickness, depth, and offense. But Jay Wright is taking away those strengths with the lineups he is putting on the floor. In years past Wright has been a guy that put his best players on the floor, regardless of height or position, as evidenced by the 4-guard lineup in 2005-2006. I can't understand why he won't do that now. Sure these guards are freshmen and sophomores and have much less experience, but right now the experienced players aren't playing well anyway. This is a team that should be running up and down the floor and scoring in the 90s. A lineup of Reynolds, Fisher, Grant, Pena, and Cunningham may not be as good defensively, but it wouldn't matter how many points they give up if they outscore their opponents, which they should with all those offensive weapons.
The team as a whole only had 5 assists in the game, which is horrible for a team with 3 great point guards. Reynolds had a horrible shooting night going 5-19 from the field and 1-9 for three, and finished with 16 points. When he's having an off shooting night Reynolds needs to defer to his teammates and collect more than 2 assists. Reynolds has carried the team to victory several times, but when he's having a bad night, Jay Wright needs to give the ball to Grant or Fisher. Malcolm Grant got the start, but disappeared for most of the game until the final 3 minutes, when he was on fire. Dante Cunningham had a below-average game scoring 9 points and only grabbing 4 rebounds. Antonio Pena had a rough night scoring 0 points, although he did collect 8 rebounds. They went to Pena in the post early in the game and he made some good moves, but failed to make the baskets. Shane Clark's play lately is getting to the point where it's hurting the team. He only had 2 points and 2 rebounds in 24 minutes of play. I know he can play better because I've seen him do it in the past, but if he can't step it up, he needs a significant reduction in his minutes. Corey Fisher only played 15 minutes, and it seemed like even less than that. It's unacceptable to kept you're second leading scorer on the bench that long for no apparent reason. Corey Stokes seemed to be inspired by his return to his home state of New Jersey by breaking out of his shooting slump to make three 3-pointers. They were all in the first half however, and he failed to get any open looks in the second half. Anderson and Redding combined for 3 points and 26 minutes.
Villanova cannot continue to have lapses like this and expect to make the NCAA tournament. Big East road victories are hard to come by this season, and this game was perhaps Villanova's easiest opportunity against the previously 0-6 Scarlet Knights. Hopefully the Cats will rebound with a strong performance at home this weekend against Notre Dame.
Next Game: Sat. Jan. 26, 12:00 pm, vs. Notre Dame at the Wachovia Center