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.