Saturday, March 14, 2009

Louisville Sends Nova Home

Final Score: Louisville 69, Villanova 55

Player of the Game: Earl Clark - 17 pts, 7 reb, 4 ast, 4 stl

Recap: This game started a lot like the Marquette game the day before. It was all Nova early, although they only took an 8 point lead into the locker room at the half this time. And like the Marquette game, Villanova's opponent made a comeback in the second half. There were no late-game heroics this time, however; as Louisville marched on to an easy 14-point win.

Dante Cunningham was terrific in the first half. He was draining mid-range jumpers and finished the game with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Dwayne Anderson was hot early from the perimeter and scored 12 points. Corey Fisher also had a great first half, knocking down some threes and had 14 points total for the game.

Then a completely different Louisville team came out of the locker room after halftime. They were sharing the ball on offense, but the big difference was on defense. Louisville ran the full court press to perfection, forcing 23 Villanova turnovers, including 7 by Fisher and 6 by Reynolds. They also denied Cunningham the mid-range jumper by guarding him tight on the high post and even blocked a couple of his shots. Louisville was all over Scottie Reynolds the entire game. The only open looks he got were deep 3-pointers, well beyond the NBA line, so it's no surprise he only finished with 2 points on 1 field goal. Jay Wright called Louisville "the best defensive team in the country", and I agree. They are so long and athletic and they go about 9 deep, so Rick Pitino is able to press the entire game by continuously substituting fresh players. It's actually how I envision next year's Villanova team to be. Jay Wright's squad will be 10 or 11 deep, with a plethora of guards to sub in and out. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves; this season is far from over.

As opposed to last year, Villanova can now sit back and relax on Selection Sunday, knowing that their name will be called. The only question is what seed they will be and whether or not they will get to play in Philly at the Wachovia Center. I still think they have a good chance at a 3 or 4 seed, and hopefully they get to stay close to home. A Big East Championship is prestigious and I'd love it if Nova won, but I'd probably rather get sent home early and be fresh for the NCAA tournament than get physically and mentally drained like Syracuse has done by playing 4 games and 7 overtimes in 4 days.

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