Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nova Overcomes Louisville in Some Kind of Hybrid Form of Basketball

Dr. Naismith must be rolling over in his grave because the game Villanova and Louisville were playing was not the form of basketball he intended when he invented the game in 1891. There were 66 personal fouls, 94 free throws, 42 turnovers, and the 40-minute game took roughly 2 hours and 40 minutes to play. Rick Pitino employed his signature full court press, and between the frenetic pace, physical defense, and the white-out crowd (and coach) Villanova was flustered. They could barely move the ball across halfcourt, as evidenced by Reggie Redding's seven turnovers. Jay Wright got so outraged by the rough play and his team's inability to break the press that he was tee'd up and had to be held back by his coaches to avoid being ejected. Louisville got out to a 17-point lead midway through the first half, and at that point Villanova had two choices: 1) Get down on themselves and give up, or 2) Keep fighting and playing Villanova basketball. Luckily they chose the latter and were able to cut the halftime deficit to seven points.

Then the second half was all Villanova, or more specifically all Scottie Reynolds. Scottie scored 30 of his season-high 36 points in the second half and was nearly perfect shooting the ball (9-10 fg, 5-5 3pt, 13-17 ft). Villanova returned from the locker room more patient, finally figuring out how the break the Louisville press. Nova cut down on their turnovers from 17 in the first half, to just 5 in the second. Corey Fisher personified the turnaround with zero second half turnovers, after compiling four in the first half. They also took control of the boards in the second half. Louisville out-rebounded Villanova by 10 in the first half, and they had more offensive boards (15) than Nova had total rebounds (14). However, Nova out-boarded the Cardinals 22-17 in the second half. Taylor King led the team with 7 rebounds, all but one of which came in the second half.

You could say Pitino out-coached Jay Wright early in the game because Jay's squad wasn't initially prepared for the press, but in the end Pitino out-coached himself. As good as Scottie Reynolds was, Samardo Samuels was even more dominant. He had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, and was literally perfect shooting the ball (4-4 fg, 13-13 ft). How somebody that unstoppable doesn't touch the ball on every possession is outrageous. Nova had no answer for him inside, yet Pitino seemed content to let his guards jack up threes, 33 of them in total, despite shooting only 21%. Villanova, on the other hand, was much more selective with the longball, and it paid off to the tune of 9-14, 64%.

Between the ultra-fast pace of play and the 33 personal fouls called on each team, depth became very important, especially later in the game. For the past couple of years, Louisville would win these types of games over Villanova because they always had a deeper bench. Now Villanova goes 11 deep, and Jay Wright took full advantage of that by playing 10 players for at least 10 minutes. Maalik Wayns stepped up to score 10 points in the first half to help Nova claw back. It's almost not fair when a player as good as Dominic Cheek is coming off the bench as your ninth man. Mouphtaou Yarou is the newest addition to the roation, and he seems to be getting his legs back under him, playing 14 minutes in the game. He showed some nice post moves on offense and provided a shot-blocking presence on defense, but he needs to learn how to avoid the ticky-tack fouls.

Villanova showed a lot of grit and perseverance to come through and win this game. Nova should get back to playing actual basketball in their next game, a showdown at noon in Philly against Georgetown and their classic Princeton offense.

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