Sunday, March 23, 2008

Nova cruises past Siena to Sweet 16

Final Score: Villanova 84, Siena 72

Player of the Game: Scottie Reynolds 25 pts, 8 reb, 5 ast

Recap: Villanova advanced to its third Sweet Sixteen in four years after a 84-72 victory over the Siena Saints on Easter Sunday. Villanova dominated pretty much the entire game. Villanova’s size, speed, strength, and athleticism were too much for the Saints. Villanova’s largest lead was sixteen, but Siena kept it close enough that they could have made a run; however they never did.

It was the "Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes show". They combined for 31 of Villanova’s 42 first half points. Reynolds finished with a game-high 25, and Stokes had a career-high 20 points. Reynolds had a great all-around game, grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists. He was hot from downtown, going 4 for 7. Surprisingly, only six of Stokes’ twenty points came from 3-pointers. He did a great job driving and attacking the basket. Stokes was due for a big game after his quiet night versus Clemson.

Dante Cunningham did a much better job staying out of foul trouble in this game. It paid dividends for him, keeping him on the floor to score 14 points and grab 6 boards. Everyone helped chip in, with all twelve players on the roster entering the game, ten different Wildcats scoring and rebounding, and seven recording an assist. It’s either a really good sign or a really bad one if Jason Colenda plays, and today it was a good sign. Corey Fisher and Antonio Pena, two of the heroes from the first round win over Clemson, did not score as much today, but Stokes and Cunningham picked up their slack.

For most of the season there have been two types of Villanova fans. Some gave up early after witnessing the tough defeats and said the team just wasn’t good enough this year. Other fans knew the team was talented and could be very good, but knew that they just weren’t playing up to their potential. The latter appear to be correct, as the Wildcats have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The first group of fans didn’t even think Villanova deserved to be in the tournament, let alone win two games. Now these young Wildcats will travel to Detroit to face the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks for a trip to the Elite Eight to play the winner of the Wisconsin/Davidson game.

In a surprising twist, Georgetown was knocked out of the tournament by Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats. This leaves Villanova, West Virginia, and Louisville as the only Big East teams left in the tournament. Three Big East teams advancing to the Sweet Sixteen is no surprise, but few expected Villanova or West Virginia to be among them.

Villanova has already surpassed most people’s expectations. No one will give them much of a chance against Kansas, a team many experts predict to win the championship. Then again no one gave Villanova much of a chance in 2005 when they upset the undefeated #2 ranked Jayhawks at the Wachovia Center 83-62. That win brought Villanova back to national prominence and sparked their run back to the NCAA tournament. No Villanova players remain from that team, but let’s hope these Wildcats carry on in the tradition of Ray, Sumpter, Foye, Nardi, Lowry, and all the other players that helped upset Kansas three years ago.

Next Game: Friday, March 28, at 9:40 pm, vs. Kansas

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