Monday, December 14, 2009

Temple Hands Nova First Loss

It's always a bittersweet moment when an opponent's fans rush the court on you. It's the utmost form of flattery in college basketball; a sign of respect. It means you were supposed to win because you are bigger, better, faster, etc... Unfortunately, it also means you did not win, and in Villanova's case, this was their first loss of the season.

Villanova got off to a bit of a slow start, but took control midway through the first half with a 14 point lead. Nova looked like they were on their way to another lopsided Big 5 win. However, they got sloppy, and Temple hit some shots to cut the lead to 6 at the half.

In the second half it was all Temple. The Owls simply outplayed us. They had the best shooter, Juan Fernandez (33 points, 7-9 3pt). If he was balding with a five o'clock shadow, I would have thought he was Manu Ginobili. They also had the best rebounder, Lavoy Allen, who out-boarded Antonio Pena 17-2! Ultimately it was Temple's hot outside shooting that did Villanova in.
They drained 7 of 11 from behind the arc in the second half, while Nova missed 10 of 12.

With all the recent winning, you may have forgot about the near upset against George Mason in Puerto Rico. What I said after that game still holds true.
"This is clearly not a top five team right now. They could be by the end of the season, and personally I think they will be right there among the nation's elite when everything's said and done. However, this team is still so young and inexperienced."

Carrying a #3 ranking everywhere you go brings on a lot of pressure, especially from opposing players and fans looking for the big upset. Villanova's 2005-06 senior-laden team with Foye and Ray could handle that pressure, but this team isn't as battle-tested yet. With Big East play right around the corner, they will have the opportunity to earn their stripes and win back that top-5 ranking, if and when they deserve it.

Other notes and stats:
* Scottie Reynolds had 23 points, his third straight game with 20+. He also had 4 turnovers, his third straight game with 4+.

* Antonio Pena scored 16 points and was a perfect 6 of 6 from the line, but his 2 rebounds were his lowest of the season. He had at least 7 boards in the team's previous 9 wins.

* Corey Fisher had 14 points and 7 assists, but he hurt his field goal percentage by jacking up some desperation threes at the end of the game.

* Looking at Corey Stokes' point totals this season, he appears to be feast or famine: 20, 14, 1, 3, 18, 9, 7, 18, 4, 5. At least his defense and rebounding have been consistently good.

* Taylor King was 2 of 3 from downtown in the first half, but he did not even attempt a shot in the second half.

* Maurice Sutton played just 6 minutes, despite averaging over 21 per game since Yarou went down.

* Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek were both held scoreless in the same game for the first time this season.

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