Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cincy Preview

Foe: Cincinnati Bearcats (14-7)(4-4)

Recent History: Villanova and Cincinnati have met only four times, and Villanova holds a 3-1 edge. The only loss came last season, 69-66, at Cincinnati. Villanova was led by Scottie Reynolds' 2007-2008 season-high 32 points. Corey Fisher had a chance to tie the game with 6 seconds left, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Cincinnati was led by Deonta Vaughn's 25 points, and he is the player to focus on this year as well. Vaughn leads the team in scoring (15.6) and assists (4.8). Mike Williams and Yancy Gates both average 10 points a game.

Best Win: 65-57 vs. #23 Georgetown

Worst Loss: Twice to Providence (87-79, 72-63)

Famous Alumni: Sandy Koufax, Kenyon Martin, Jason Maxiell, Oscar Robertson, Nick Van Exel, Kevin Youkilis

Fun Facts:
  • Cincinnati moved from Conference-USA to the Big East in 2005.
  • Nickname Bearcats originates from former football player Teddy Baehr.
  • Won back-to-back national championships in 1961 and 1962, both against in-state rival Ohio State.

Complimentary Youtube Video: Mr. Triple Double...

Final Verdict: Villanova should have plenty confidence after the win over Pitt, but Cincy is off to a somewhat surprising 4-4 start in the Big East and can't be taken too lightly. I don't think there will be a letdown following the Pitt game because these Wildcats will be looking for the loss last season. Also the game is at the Pavilion where Nova has been dominant (24 game win streak).

TV: ESPN Full Court

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Redding Carries Nova Over Pitt

Final Score: #21 Villanova 67, #3 Pittsburgh 57

Player of the Game: Reggie Redding - 18 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 10-10 FT

Recap: Nova trailed by 5 at the half, but came back to beat #3 Pitt by 10 for their first win of the year over a ranked opponent.

All Aboard the Reggie Redding Bandwagon

("Redding" the font in honor of Reggie) Redding played his best game as a Wildcat, offensively at least, scoring a career-high 18 points. He did a bit of everything, grabbing 7 boards, dishing a couple assists, steals, and bringing it on the defensive end. We've come to expect that from Redding, but he had a breakout night offensively, excelling at driving to the basket and getting to the free throw line, where he was a perfect 10 for 10. Jay Wright has called Reggie his smartest player and best defender, and if he can continue to score like this he could become one of Jay's best all-around players.

"Drop Down and Give Me 15"...

... Points that is. Dante once again delivered the type of game Nova fans have come to expect from him this season. Cunningham avoided the fouls that plagued him the last two games to score 15 and grab 5. Does Nova have a legit shot-blocking presence? Dante has blocked 2+ shots for 4 straight games, and has had at least 1 for 8 straight.

Rebound Machine - "Target in Sight"...

Shane Clark may not have scored, but he was a beast on the boards, grabbing 7, including a game-high 4 offensive rebounds. He helped Nova out-rebound one of the best rebounding teams in the country 19-16 in the second half.

Two Coreys, One Goal...

The Coreys provided some valuable energy and scoring off the bench. Fisher had 9 points and Stokes added 6.

"You Shall Not Score"

Dwayne Anderson flat out brings it every night, on both ends of the floor. His stats usually aren't eye-popping (7 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl), but he'll do anything to help the team win... even if it means pulling a guy's arm off and closelining him in the neck.

"Will Somebody Get on #1"

Scottie Reynolds had a rough first half, going 0-5 from the field, but he bounced back in the 2nd to score 10 points and hit two big 3-pointers. As Dickie V would say, he's a PTP'er, a prime-time player; he steps up when it matters most.

"Not only are we beating Pitt... We're beating Cincinnati, and Providence, and Syracuse, and Marquette, and we're beating West Virginia, and Rutgers, and DePaul, and Georgetown, and Notre Dame, and then we're going back to Detroit to take back the National Title! Yeeeeaaahhhh!!!!"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pitt @ the Spectrum

Foe: #3 Pitt Panthers (18-1)(6-1)

Recent History: Villanova and Pittsburgh seem to always play each other tough and the series record reflects that, with Nova holding a slight 30-27 edge. Last season these teams played each other twice and the home team won both times to split the season series. Nova edged out Pitt in the first game 64-63 at the Pavilion, led by Malcolm Grant's 22 points. The second contest was a little more lopsided, with Pitt winning 69-57, and Nova was led by Scottie Reynolds' 26 points. DeJuan Blair had a double-double in both games and dominated the boards (15 and 14 rebounds). Pitt went on to win the Big East Tournament and earned a 4-seed in the NCAAs, losing to Michigan State in the second round. The Panthers lost a few seniors (Mike Cook, Keith Benjamin, Ronald Ramon), but the main difference from this year's squad is the return of super-senior Levance Fields. Fields is a point guard in the truest sense, averaging 6.9 assists to 1.9 turnovers, and he really makes the offense go. Sam Young leads the team in scoring at 18.8 per game, and Blair is averaging a double-double (14.7 pts and 12.7 reb).

Best Win:78-60 vs. then #8 Syracuse

Worst Only Loss: 69-63 @ then #20 Louisville

Famous Alumni: Mike Ditka, Larry Fitzgerald, Aaron Gray, Dan Marino, Curtis Martin, Marty Schottenheimer, Mark Blount

Fun Facts:
  • Pitt has reach the championship game of the Big East Tournament seven of the past eight years.
  • Pitt has made the NCAA Tournament seven straight years.
  • Earlier this season Pitt was ranked #1 nationally for the first time in school history.

Complimentary Video Clip:

Final Verdict: Pitt presents a tough test for Villanova. Antonio Pena and Dante Cunningham need to stay in the game to battle DeJuan Blair on the boards. Scottie Reynolds needs to look to score aggressively. I'm still waiting for that breakout game from Corey Stokes in Big East play... this would be a conveinvent time. Villanova is still looking for that stand-out victory, and a win here would do wonders for their tournament resume. I see this one being close and low scoring, like the Louisville game, but unlike then, hopefully Nova can pull out a win at the end of this one.

TV: 7:00 ESPNU

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nova Survives Rumble in South Florida

Final Score: #21 Villanova 70, South Florida 61

Player of the Game
: Dwayne Anderson - 7 pts, 11 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk

Recap: Keeping with the theme from last year...

The Good

- Dwayne Anderson's game high 11 rebounds, his 3-pointer, and his driving layup and subsequent offensive rebound off of his missed free throw to help seal the victory... That earns player of the game honors in my eyes.

- Dante Cunningham while on the court (14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks).

- Scottie Reynolds tied a season-high 7 assists.

- The two Corey's were both great off the bench: 10 points each in 18/19 minutes. I still think they could be seeing a little more playing time because either one is Nova's best third scoring option.

- Reggie Redding had a decent night offensively (11 points) to compliment his gritty defense.

- Shane Clark had a season-high 8 rebounds, and he hit a 3-pointer despite having a soft cast on his wrist.

- Nova picks up a valuable Big East road win and moves back to .500 in conference.

The Bad

- Dante Cunningham while off the court. He missed 21 minutes because of foul trouble.

- Antonio Pena (6 points, 1 rebound) couldn't continue his hot streak from the past 3 games, where he was averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds.

- Scottie Reynolds had a season-low 7 points.

- The fact that this game was as close as it was. Villanova appears to be playing to the level of their competition this season.

The Ugly

- I called it a rumble because this game was physical. There were 48 foul calls total. Two players fouled out (Reggie Redding and Dominique Jones) and both Dante Cunningham and Antonio Pena saw limited playing time due to foul trouble.

- The roughest foul of the game was called on Corey Stokes... and there was actually contact on this one as opposed to the questionable call versus UConn.

- Dante's "dunk/layup" that somehow went in... it wasn't pretty but 2 points are 2 points.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Nova Travels to South Florida

Foe: South Florida Bulls (7-11)(2-4)

Recent History: Villanova is undeafeated (2-0) all-time against USF. Villanova's first and only trip to South Florida came in 2005-06, when Randy Foye led the Wildcats to a 49-46 victory. Last season Nova won 72-59 in the Pavilion and were led by Shane Clark's 15 points and 7 rebounds. Dominique Jones had 29 points in that game, and averaging 18.8 points per game, he will be the player to watch this time around as well. 

Best Win: 80-58 at Depaul

Famous Alumni: Chucky Atkins, Hulk Hogan, Tony La Russa

Fun Facts
  • South Florida's basketball program was founded in 1971.
  • USF joined the Big East in 2005.

Complimentary Youtube Video:

Final Verdict: Nova needs to win this game. With the Big East as rigorous as it is, you need to win the easy ones. That doesn't mean this game will be a gimmie. USF has two Big East wins already and they played Syracuse close. However, if Villanova plays as well as they did in the UConn loss, they should walk away with a victory.

TV: ESPN Full Court 12:00

Links: AP, IBBW, VUHoops

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Price Shoots UConn Past Nova

Final Score: #3 Connecticut 89, #21 Villanova 83

Player of the Game: A.J. Price - 29 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast

Recap: Villanova played tough and hung with #3 UConn, but in the end fell short. It's actually remarkable that Villanova was able to keep it so close on the road without their leading scorer. Dante Cunningham had a season-low 6 points after fouling out in only 14 minutes of play. Perhaps this was negated by the fact that UConn's best big man, Hasheem Thabeet, was also limited by foul trouble. You have to pleased with the overall effort and look forward to Saturday when Nova will have a good chance for a second Big East road win at South Florida.

Quick Hits:
Nova returned to the balanced scoring of earlier in the season. Five players scored in double figures (Anderson - 15, Pena - 12, Reynolds - 14, Redding - 12, and Stokes - 12) and Corey Fisher added 9 points as well.

It was nice to see Corey Stokes draining threes early, but he went cold in the second half...

Corey Fisher looked good attacking the basket, but was a little careless with the ball at times (4 turnovers to 3 assists).

Despite limited time on the floor, Dante Cunningham matched 7'3 Thabeet with 3 blocked shots.

Dwayne Anderson is heating up offensively - he recorded a new season high 15 points - and as usual he was active on the boards (8 rebounds) and in passing lanes (3 steals).

Antonio Pena is turning into a consistent double-double man (12 points, 8 rebounds), despite the fact he has never actually had a double-double in his career. I have a feeling it will come soon. Not sure how he missed that dunk though.

How was this an intentional foul?
Villanova shouldn't have even had a chance in the final minute of this game, but after UConn's collapse why did Reynolds and Redding insist on driving to the basket for two's when they needed 3-pointers to have any chance of winning?

Shane Clark had one of just about everything...

Kudos to Frank Tchuisi who looked like Karl Malone running the pick and roll to perfection for his 2 points off the bench in the first half.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

#21 Nova at #3 UConn

Foe: #3 Connecticut Huskies (16-1) (5-1)

Recent History: Villanova and UConn have been involved in some memorable games recently, including the season split in 2005-06 when both teams went on to earn #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, Scottie Reynolds' first 40-point game as a freshman in 2006-07, and Nova's 2-point win last season that ended UConn's 10-game win streak. UConn earned a 4-seed in the NCAAs last year but was upset in the first round 70-69 by 13-seed San Diego. This is essentially the same UConn team from the past two years, which Villanova has been successful against, winning both match-ups. This year's Huskies team is once again loaded with talent , but unlike the past couple of years, they have valuable experience. Senior power forward Jeff Adrien is a walking double-double (14.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg) , senior point guard AJ Price is averaging almost 5 assists per game, junior Jerome Dyson is an explosive scorer on the wing (13.1 ppg), junior Stanley Robinson is back with the team after missing the first eight games, Kemba Walker is a talented freshman, and of course 7-foot-3 junior Hasheem Thabeet is holding down things in the middle, averaging a double-double (13.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg), plus 3.7 blocks per game. Basically this team is stacked all around, well-deserving of their #3 national rank, and is a favorite to go to the Final Four.

Best Win
: 88-83 vs. then #7 Gonzaga

Worst Only Loss: 74-63 at then #8 Georgetown

Famous Alumni: Moby, Meg Ryan, Dan Orlovsky, Ray Allen, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, Caron Butler, Rudy Gay, Ben Gordon, Rip Hamilton, Donyell Marshall, Emeka Okafor, Kevin Ollie, Charlie Villanueva, Marcus Williams

Fun Facts:
  • UConn has won two NCAA titles: 1999 and 2004.
  • In 2004 UConn became the first Division I school to win the NCAA championship for men's and women's basketball in the same year.
  • In 2006 UConn had a record 5 players selected in the NBA Draft: Rudy Gay (8), Hilton Armstrong (12), Marcus Williams (22), Josh Boone (23), Denham Brown (40).

Complimentary Video Clip: (Click here if player below doesn't work)
The 2006 instant-classic from the Wachovia Center. I loved this quote from Calhoun after the game: "They made 3s, Sheridan hit some tough baselines. I don't know what adjustments you'd like us to make for Allan Ray's 28-footers."

Final Verdict: As I said above this is a very good UConn, and a win will be difficult, especially on their court, but Nova definitely has a chance. The Wildcats have had the Huskies' number lately with two wins in a row. Pena and Cunningham played well against Louisville's talented frontcourt and they will have to do the same against UConn's, which is even bigger. Corey Fisher needs to penetrate inside early to try to get Thabeet in foul trouble. Scottie Reynolds needs to be aggressive offensively, maybe not 40 points, but more than the last two games (11 vs. UL, 9 vs. SJU). Corey Stokes could be the x-factor. He had 18 points (4-7 3pt) in the win over UConn last year, but the past three games he has scored below his season average of 10 ppg. Stokes made 32 3-pointers in his first 11 games, but has only made 6 threes in Nova's past 6 games. It may be a tall order, quite literally, but if Corey and the rest of the Wildcats get hot, they can pull off the upset.

TV: ESPN 7:00

Sunday, January 18, 2009

24 In A Row

Final Score: #22 Villanova 76, St. John's 57

Player of the Game
: Dwayne Anderson - 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block

Recap: Villanova won its school-record 24th consecutive game in the Pavilion (maybe they should play there more often) to get back to .500 in the Big East. The Wildcats did exactly what they needed to do after the tough loss last week. Not only did Nova win, but they won convincingly by 19 points and led by double digits most of the game. Now let's hand out some awards Bill Simmons-style.

Kyle Lowry Award for Hustle and Tenacity
This was a vintage Dwayne Anderson game: grabbing loose balls, offensive rebounds, steals, drawing charges, and all the other little things you need to do to win games. He also had a season-high 14 points.

The Chris Paul to Tyson Chandler Award for Alley-oop of the Game
Corey Fisher connected with Dante Cunningham for a rare Villanova alley-oop. Dante Cunningham was consistent once again with an efficient 17 points (7-10 FG), although he surprisingly only had one rebound.

The Spud Webb/Nate Robinson Award for Short Guy Trying to Dunk
Corey Fisher tried to dunk on a breakaway, but he just couldn't quite jump high enough and layed it in 2-handed instead. Fisher did a great job running the point while Scottie Reynolds was on the bench with foul trouble. Corey had 12 points and 2 assists, and he actually got a few of his signature double-clutch lay-ups to fall for and-1's.

The Presidential Speech Award for Over-applause
The crowd erupted when Antonio Pena made his first free throw after the late-game collapse against Louisville. He made 3 of 4 from the line today. Pena had a great bounce-back game with another near double-double (13 points, 9 boards).

The Bobby Knight Award for Coaching Outburst of the Game
Jay Wright picked up a technical foul after lashing out on a ref for calling another foul on his star guard. Scottie Reynolds only played half a game, a season-low 20 minutes, because of constant foul trouble. Scottie played the role of distributor during his time on the floor, racking up 5 assists to go with his 9 points.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Red Storm Preview

Foe: St. John's Red Storm (10-6) (1-3)

Recent History: Nova has won the past four games against the Red Storm, but St. John's leads the all-time series 58-42. Last season Nova won 60-42 in a defensive battle at MSG, holding St. John's to only 13 points in the first half. The Red Storm suffered a crushing loss when leading scorer Anthony Mason Jr. (son of the former NBA player) injured his foot after three games, causing him to miss the rest of the season. They are now led by sophomores D.J. Kennedy (13.3 ppg) and Paris Horne (13.2 ppg).

Best Win: 71-65 vs. #10 Notre Dame

Worst Loss: 75-54 at Providence

Famous Alumni: Ron Artest, Lou Carnesecca, Mike Francesa, John Franco, Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, Howie Schwab, Bob Sheppard

Fun Facts:
  • St. John's changed its mascot from Redmen to Red Storm in 1994.
  • Last year was St. John's 100th anniversary of college basketball.
  • St. John's has the 5th most wins (1,673) in college basketball history, but is the only team of the five without a national championship.

Complimentary Youtube Video: When both teams were at their best...

Final Verdict: Villanova has to win this game. In a conference this difficult, you must beat the bottom-dwellers at home. Considering Nova's success in the Pavilion (23 straight wins) and their recent success against St. John's, all signs point to a victory.

TV: ESPN Full Court (WPHL/SNY) 12:00 PM

Links: AP, VUHoops

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lowry Sets Career High

Kyle Lowry scored a career high 25 points last night against Cleveland. He did it by making another career high 15 of 16 free throws. He also added 7 assists in 30 minutes in the 102-87 loss to the Cavs. Kyle would have had two more points if it weren't for this vicious block by LeBron...

Randy's Cooking up a Storm

Randy Foye continued on his hot streak with 29 points (12-21 FG, 5-10 3PT) and 8 assists last night in a 99-96 loss to Miami. From AP:
"Looking more and more like the clutch performer he was at Villanova, Foye went toe-to-toe with Wade and never backed down. He scored 14 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, but he couldn't get the Timberwolves their sixth straight victory. Foye had a shot to take the lead after Marion's free throws, but Wade swatted the layup attempt away and Rodney Carney rushed a 3-pointer that was off the mark. Spoelstra said Wade "had his hands full with Foye. Foye is a heck of a player." The man who is earning the nickname "Fourth Quarter Foye" had one more chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but his 3-pointer was off the mark as his Wolves lost for the first time in 2009. He also finished with eight assists and five rebounds."You can't ask anything more out of him than that," Wolves coach Kevin McHale said."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nova Loses Heartbreaker

Final Score: #21 Louisville 61, #17 Villanova 60

Player of the Game
: Terrance Williams, 12 pts, 14 reb, 6 ast, game-winning basket

Recap: Well, I just got back from the hospital after having three heart attacks at the end of that game. Villanova had four opportunities to win it in the final seconds but just couldn't find the bottom of the net. Nova trailed most of the game and did an excellent job battling back to give themselves a chance to win. First, Antonio Pena missed two free throws that could had tied/won it, then they got a second life after the miss. Jay Wright ran his signature in-bounds play and it worked to perfection with Dante Cunningham getting the ball under the basket. However, he missed the layup and Reggie Redding and Dwayne Anderson missed a pair of wide open put-backs. This is a game we should have had and it will be a tough loss to swallow.

It's easy to blame Antonio Pena for the loss because he missed the two crucial free throws, but he was actually the reason Nova even had a chance to win at the end. Pena had one of his best games of the season with 14 points and 8 rebounds, and he really held his own down low against Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels. I know he must feel horrible right now, but he should keep his head up because he played well and Nova needs him the rest of the season. He was 6-14 from the free throw line, so obviously he needs to hit the gym and practice his shot, but he also needs to finish better around the basket. Sure he got fouled, but he had good chances to still make the shot and get the and-1, which would have been huge especially when you're struggling at the line.

I think the real key to the game was Corey Fisher's breakaway right before Pena's misses. He should have: A) Faked the pass and took it himself, either making the shot or drawing the foul. Or B) Took one more dribble before he passed it off to Pena, forcing the defender to commit to him, leaving Pena open for a dunk. I'm not saying Fisher is to blame for the loss either, but he has to keep in mind that Pena was 6-12 from the line at that point, so sending him there again was not the best option. Otherwise, Fisher played a good game (7 pts, 3 ast, 1 to) and probably should have seen more than 18 minutes.

Dante Cunningham scored 21 points in another high-volume shooting game (9-19 FG). He shouldn't stop shooting the jumper, but Dante needs to take it inside more often. Look at the good that resulted when Pena took it inside. Cunningham is probably a better finisher around the basket and definitely a better free throw shooter than Pena. A big man that is as good a free throw shooter as Dante is an asset that should be taken advantage of. (see Luke Harangody, Tyler Hansborough, etc.)

Bandage or not, Corey Stokes needs to get more than two 3-point attempts a game. He had the bandage off today and hit a big three to spark Nova's comeback. He's shooting over 44% from behind the arc on the season, and Nova could have used some Stokes 3's today, considering the rest of the team was only 1-6.

Scottie Reynolds had a disappointing followup to his 40 point gem. He had 11 points (3-6 FG) and missed both of his 3-point attempts. I would have liked to have seen Scotti
e take some more outside shots, but then again looking at Louisville's numbers from downtown (3-25, 12%), maybe there was something wrong with the rims. Playing point guard for most of the game, Reynolds had only 2 assists to 4 turnovers. It definitely benefits the offense to have Fisher running the point and Scottie playing off the ball, but it's a matter of give and take having two 6-footers on the defensive end, and Jay seems to prefer the D. However, both of Wright's defensive specialists (Reggie Redding and Dwayne Anderson) went scoreless today. On a brighter note, Scottie had one of the best highlights of the season early in the game with a spin move to reverse layup.

What does this loss mean to Villanova's season? Right now, it's a home loss to a top 25 team. I think Louisville will get better as the season progresses and move closer to their preseason rank of #3 nationally. So hopefully at the end of the season, when the tournament committee is reviewing Villanova's resume, they will look at this game positively, for playing a very good Lousiville team so tough. Anyway, Nova has a full week to regroup before they return to the Pavilion to play St. John's; a good opportunity to get back to .500 in the Big East.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Showdown With Louisville At High Noon

Foe: #21 Louisville Cardinals (10-3)(1-0)

Recent History: The all-time series between Villanova and Louisville is tied at 6-6, but Nova holds a 3-1 edge since the Cardinals joined the Big East. Last season Louisville pummeled Nova at Freedom Hall 68-54. Scottie Reynolds was held to a season-low 4 points in the game. Louisville earned a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to North Carolina. This year's team is deep and talented, led by junior Earl Clark (13.5 ppg), senior Terrance Williams (11.6 ppg), and freshman Samardo Samuels (13.5 ppg). 

Notable Win: 74-71 vs. Kentucky

Notable Loss: 68-54 vs. Western Kentucky

Famous Alumni: David Akers, Deion Branch, Tom Jackson, Johnny Unitas, Wes Unseld

Fun Facts
  • Louisville won two NCAA Championships (1980, 1986).
  • Rick Pitino is the only coach to take three different teams to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville).
  • Louisville has had 57 players all-time taken in the NBA draft, Francisco Garcia (2005) being the most recent.
  • Louisville is 97-0 when they score 100 or more points.

Complimentary Youtube Video: Lappas' preview...

Final Verdict: Louisville is deeper and more talented up front, but the Wildcats should have the advantage in the backcourt. Despite the preseason hype (#3), Louisville has had some disapointing losses so far, which has drpped them in the rankings. They are still a dangerous team and this would instantly become Nova's strongest win of the season. Nova needs to take advantage of the homecrowd support at the Wachovia Center to pick up a win in their Big East home opener. I think it will be a close game, but Nova should pull it out at the end.

TV: 12:00 ESPN

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Foye Ties Career High With 32 Points

Randy Foye matched his career high of 32 points in a 129-87 blowout of the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. He had his best shooting night of the season, (10-16 FG, 6-9 3PT, 6-6 FT) and he also dished out 6 assists. He did it all in the first three quarters, before resting with the comfortable lead in the fourth.

Foye has now scored in double figures for ten straight games and is averaging 20.7 points per game during that span. He is heating up from behind the arc, shooting .565% in January despite a rough start to the season. I predicted this would be Foye's breakout year, and it seems like he is finally figuring out his role in the league. If he keeps up the good play he could be looking at a big pay day after next season when his rookie contract expires. The recent sucess certainly gives Randy a reason to smile. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lowry vs. Foye '08-'09: Part II

Randy Foye and the Minnesota Timberwolves came out on top once again against Kyle Lowry and the Memphis Grizzlies in the second game of the season between the former Villanova backcourt mates. This one was close down the stretch, and with the game tied at 87 with 40 seconds remaining, Foye hit the go-ahead 3-pointer. On the next possession Foye blocked O.J. Mayo's shot to secure the 94-87 victory.

Randy Foye continued on his offensive tear of late, scoring 23 points (7-13, 4-7, 5-6). He is excelling at the shooting guard position, fueling Minesota to their longest winning streak in 2 years, which sadly is only three games.

Kyle Lowry had a slightly above average night, (9 points, 5 assists) compared to his season averages (7.5 points, 4.2 assists). Not surprisingly, more than half his points came from the free throw line where he was 5-6. Lowry was active on the defensive end with 2 blocks, a steal, and 2 rebounds. He has maintained his role as starting point guard for quite some time now, with Mike Conley coming off the bench.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Scottie Drops 40 (Again) in OT Win

Final Score: #17 Villanova 89, Seton Hall 85

Player of the Game: Scottie Reynolds, 40 points

Recap: Villanova won a thriller in overtime against Seton Hall to grab their first Big East victory of the season. Nova, up by 8 points with 3 minutes remaining, almost let this one get away when Jeremy Hazell banked in a three with 9 seconds left to force overtime. Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham were clutch from the line in OT to seal the game.

Scottie Reynolds looked as good as he ever has in a Wildcat uniform tonight. He was firing on all cylinders offensively: from the outside he hit 5/8 3-pointers, and in the paint he got to line 16 times, making 15. Of course this was Scottie's second career 40-point game, the first coming in his freshman year at UConn. I was starting to think Scottie may have peaked too early, but he proved he is still one of the best guards in the nation with this performance.

Dante Cunningham had his sixth double-double of the season, and he only needed the first half to do it. He had 10 and 10 in the first and finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. He had a season high 20 field goal attempts, making 7 of them. Dante is falling in love with the midrange jumper, which is fine because he has been almost automatic from around the free throw line. However, problems arise when he steps out further beyond his range, or when he stops going inside. Dante did an excellent job staying out of foul trouble enabling him to play all 45 minutes.

Reynolds may have scored 40 points, but Reggie Redding was just as important to the victory. Redding proved why he's the best perimeter defender on the team by shutting down Jeremy Hazell in the second half. Hazell put on a show in the first half, hitting contested fade-away threes to score 19 points. Jay Wright tried different match-ups against Hazell in the first, but he called on Redding to guard him the entire 2nd half and OT. Redding delivered, holding Hazell to 7 points in the final 25 minutes. His only mistake was losing Hazell for a second towards the end of regulation when he banked in the game-tying three. Redding also contributed on the other end of the floor by hitting some key baskets late in the game to finish with 10 points.

Dwayne Anderson had an absolute gutsy performance. He was all over the place, grabbing every loose ball available in the second half especially. He had a career-high 15 rebounds, including 7 offensive. Dwayne helped Nova out-rebound Seton Hall 47-36. He also had 2 blocks and 9 points, none bigger than his three-ball in overtime.

In their return to the Garden State, former Jersey high school stars Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes were no-shows in this one, with both Coreys going scoreless. Stokes was taken out of the starting lineup and only played 7 minutes total. This was due in part to Jay Wright preferring Redding's defense to Stokes' offense. However, I think Stokes sprained thumb is still bothering him, which is affecting his shooting. He is wearing a big bandage on his left hand, which can't be too comfortable. Coming off back-to-back 20+ point games, Fisher's poor performance was a little more alarming. He went 0-5 from the field in 16 minutes and had 2 assists and 2 turnovers. He has been inconsistent this season with a tendency to disappear after getting off to a bad start. He got the start tonight, but he may be better suited in a sixth man role to bring instant scoring off the bench.

Antonio Pena had a very solid night: 7 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists. Most importantly he stayed on the floor, committing only 1 personal foul all game. Shane Clark chipped in 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists off the bench- a quiet night, but he made some noise with a monster dunk.

This was Villanova's (and my) first trip to the Prudential Center in Newark, and it is a very nice modern arena. It shows a lot about the toughness of this team, that they were able to pull out a victory in overtime on the road. It's difficult to begin the Big East season with two road games, and ultimately you have to be happy with a split. But as I've said before, Nova has to defend it's home court Saturday vs. Louisville.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nova vs. The Hall

Foe: Seton Hall Pirates (9-5)(0-2)

Recent History: Villanova has enjoyed success against Seton Hall recently, winning the past six contests between the two teams. Last season Nova beat the Pirates 72-70 at the Pavilion on a Dwayne Anderson 3-pointer with 13 seconds left. Dante Cunningham had a then career-high 21 points, and I expect him to be the go-to guy for the Wildcats this time around as well. Harlem-native Jeremy Hazell only had 6 points on 1-9 shooting against the Cats last year, but the sophomore shooting guard is much-improved since then and Nova will have a tough time containing him. He is averaging 22.9 ppg and shooting over 35% from three- look for Reggie Redding to try to shut him down. 

Notable Win: 63-61 vs. #20 USC

Notable Loss: 70-64 at James Madison

Famous Alumni: Dick Vitale, Max Weinberg, Craig Biggio, Mo Vaughn, Samuel Dalembert, Eddie Griffin

Fun Facts
  • This will be Nova's first trip to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
  • Seton Hall won NIT in 1953
  • Went to Final Four in 1989, lost championship game in overtime to Michigan.

Complimentary Youtube Video: From the bloggers at Setonia... 

Final Verdict: After the Marquette loss I said Nova needs to defend it's home court, but they also have to try to steal a couple on the road. This is one of Nova's best chances at a road victory and they need to take advantage of it to avoid falling into a 0-2 hole to start Big East play. 

TV: ESPN Full Court 8:00

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Marquette Drops Nova

Final Score: #25 Marquette 79, #13 Villanova 72

Player of the Game: Jerel McNeal: 24 pts, 7 ast

Recap: Villanova lost it's Big East opener to Marquette this afternoon. It was a close game right up until the end, but Marquette's experience paid off as they executed better in the final minutes. Marquette's big four (Matthews, McNeal, James, Hayward) scored 75 of the team's 79 points. Although Villanova lost, there is a lot of good to be taken from the game.

First off, it was a road game in the Big East, where, this season especially, wins will be hard to come across. Nova did a good job staying in the game, giving themselves a chance to win with around five minutes left. Losing a close one on the road to a quality team like Marquette won't hurt too much, but Nova has to take care of business at home.

Corey Fisher had another great game, scoring 21 points. He was most effective driving to the basket, getting to the free throw line 11 times. He made 8, but missed a couple of crucial free throws down the stretch. He only had 1 assist, but to his credit he did make some nice passes to open teammates who just couldn't make their shots.

Dante Cunningham was consistent, finishing right around his averages with 16 points and 8 rebounds. He fouled out late in the game, which was a problem for the entire team. They committed 28 team fouls and had 2 players foul out.

Scottie Reynolds scored 15 points, but he went cold towards the end of the game to finish 6-15 from the field. He missed some easy shots that he normally makes, and had he made them there could have been a different outcome to the game.

Somewhat alarming was the disapearence of Antonio Pena. He only played 7 minutes total. He picked up some early fouls, but Jay elected not to play him later in the game. This most likely had to do with the matchups against Marquette's guards, but let's hope this is not a trend that continues. In Nova's two losses Pena has played a total of only 16 minutes. We need his size especially against the bigger teams in the Big East.