Thursday, February 17, 2011

From Pitt Fall to Beating Hall

Villanova came dangerously close to losing their third-straight game Tuesday night against the Seton Hall Pirates. Last Saturday the Wildcats lost a close hard-fought game (57-54) to Pittsburgh, one of the best teams in the country, which is nothing to hang your head about even though the 46-game Pavilion winning streak came to an end. Ironically, Nova’s win over the Pirates was the more disappointing performance over the past two games. The team’s late-game ineptitude was reminiscent of the Rutgers collapse. Villanova led most of the game against Seton Hall and were up 7 points with 5 minutes to play. However, from that point on, they stopped attacking on offense and "played not to lose" instead of "playing to win". They ran the clock down on each offensive possession, which resulted in rushed turnovers or poor shots trying to beat the buzzer. Jay Wright’s team is at their best when playing at an up-tempo pace and remaining aggressive on offense. Maybe it’s just something about playing in New Jersey and the close proximity to the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore that makes them lose their minds.

Corey Fisher has been playing fantastic as always, but the problem is he hasn’t been playing enough. He fouled out early against Pitt when the team could have used him on that final possession with a chance to tie the game. Then Fisher was forced to sit on the bench with 4 fouls late in the Seton Hall game. You want him to stay aggressive on offense and defense, but he is the best player on the team and needs to be on the floor when it matters.

Antonio Pena is getting a little too trigger happy with that mid-range jumper. He’s much improved in that department, but he’s not quite as automatic as Dante Cunningham was.
P.S. Dante out-double-doubled Kevin Love against the Timberwolves last Monday, (18 points and 13 rebounds for Cunningham vs. 12 points and 11 rebounds for Love) so I guess that scientifically proves he's a better player.

Maalik Wayns has fallen back into a shooting slump these past few games: 0-6 FG vs. Rutgers, 4-12 FG vs. Pitt, 2-7 FG vs. Seton Hall. Then when he does make a 3-pointer, it’s too late. However, Wayns’ bigger slump has been his ball-handling. He has 13 turnovers in past three games, including an almost-fatal 6 against Seton Hall. He’s one of the fastest players in college basketball, but speed kills, and sometimes he gets out of control.

James Bell stepped up big-time against Seton Hall in the absence of Corey Stokes. 21 points, 7-9 FG, 4-6 3PT, 3-3 FT. Was he wearing a Bayside Tigers shirt under his jersey? Did he make a call on a foot-long cell phone from the bench? Yep, I guess you can say Villanova was “Saved by the Bell”.

Mouphtaou Yarou had a huge game in the loss to Pitt with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks, despite the fact that he missed a wide open dunk. Mouph looked like he was on his way to another big game against Seton Hall after scoring 8 points in the first half, but he was scoreless in just 7 second half minutes.

Isaiah Armwood didn’t shoot any field goals against Pittsburgh, but he did hit one shot, the one to Nasir Robinson’s face. I don’t know whether or not it was intentional, but I kind of hope it was because Robinson deserved it. He’s just another name in a long tradition of dirty Panther players… *cough*cough* Carl Krauser.

Dominic Cheek is the player I thought would step up to fill the shoes of the injured Stokes, but instead Cheek shot 1-7 and 0-5 in the past two games. He hasn’t scored in double figures since January 6, two games before his knee injury. His rebounding numbers have been fine since then, so I don’t know why his shot is so off.

Even with Villanova down a man due to Stokes’ injury, Maurice Sutton’s playing has been dwindling. Sutton has played under 10 minutes for seven-straight games, as Jay Wright has been giving the extra minutes to Armwood and Bell.

Kyle Lowry scored a career-high 36 points Wednesday night to go along with 7 assists and 4 rebounds. A career under-30% 3-point shooter, Lowry hit 6 of 9 threes, improving his season average to 36.4%. It used to be that outside shooting was the only thing holding Kyle back. Now all he has to worry about is the slew of all-star caliber point guards he has to guard every night in the West: Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis, Jason Kidd and...

Finally, congratulations to Randy Foye, who had his #2 jersey retired at the Pavilion last Saturday. Foye was one of my favorite players to watch while I was at Villanova, both on the court and off. It was just five years ago that I was sitting in the same classroom as Randy in Mendel Hall for our marine biology class. Ah, the good ‘ole days, learning about crustaceans and algae. Now he’s making millions of dollars in the NBA and I’m… not.

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