Sunday, February 24, 2008

Post Game: Connecticut -- Corey Strokes?

Looks like I go first on this game. So be it, I have no doubt the Let's Go Nova Blog and the I Bleed Blue and White Blog will post recaps (and in Let's Go Nova's case...player evaluations/grades) before the weekend is out -- be sure to check with them sometime Sunday. But to this point the fan will have be work over the AP story, "Stokes, Reynolds lead Villanova past No. 13 UConn", posted on the official Athletic Department website, on Yahoo Sports and yet again, passed off as ESPN's own recap on their website...I wonder if the writer was paid triple the going rate. It seems the team wore those throwback jerseys for good effect in this, the second consecutive home game. The 'Cats turned in another stellar defensive effort in the first half. And played "good enough" offense in the second half to hold off the surging Huskies. I am interested to see if they go to the throwbacks one more time Monday night for the Marquette team. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

I did not highlight the pertinent stats this time, but a quick check shows the Huskies were exploited for turnovers and poor shooting in the first half. Their 82.6 ORtg is a bit misleading, as they, down by 13 with 5:51 to play in the first half, went on a 12-5 run to close out the half down by only 5. They scored 12 points in 10 possessions for an ORtg of 120.0. This may well have set the tone for the second half, where they pushed that rating up to 127.7. Their rather dramatic second half revival came by punching the ball inside to Adrien, Thabeet and Robinson. Combined those 3 were 9-11 in the second half (from inside the 3 point line, most obviously from inside the paint), also improving their offensive rebounding rate, from a respectable 44.4 in the first half, to a dominating 53.3 margin in the second half. In the first half the 'Cats employed what appeared to be a fronting scheme with double downs after the big caught the ball in in the paint. This seemed to confuse Price and Austrie, who seemed to wander a bit around the perimeter before shooting (or trying another post entry pass). Denying the UConn bigs the ball and to force them to give it up if the entry was attempted (and caught...) also seemed to translate into turnovers, as Adrien, Thabeet and Edwards were responsible for 5 of the Huskies' 9 turnovers in the first half.

During The Wildcat's first half offensive blitz (before the cooldown at the 5:00 minutes mark...), one member of the ESPN announcing team (Len Elmore I believe...), perhaps half deliberately mispronounced Corey Stokes' name to Corey Strokes. The belated point was the young man's form as he took those outside jumpers for 3s. Corey S hit 4 of 5 of those shots to help build and maintain the Villanova lead. Stokes followed that strong first half with a nearly equally impressive second half in which he took the ball inside (where he went 3-3) when the 3s stopped dropping. I was impressed with his ability to take the ball to the hole and score. I had thought of him as more of a set and shoot-type scorer. A very pleasant surprise to find he can dribble and score too.

Odds and Ends...
1. Pena score 10 points on 5-12 shooting, making this the second consecutive game in which he scored in double digits. The redshirt freshman has scored 10 or more points in 9 games this season (5 occuring during Big East play). Pena's PT in Big East games is nearly double his minutes in OOC play. And his per game Big East scoring average, 8.2, is also nearly double his scoring average against OOC competitiion (4.5ppg). His tip-out of Dante Cunningham's missed free throw with 4.9 seconds on the clock was a very heady play.
2. Scottie Reynold's scoring spree in the second half was a terrific counter to Stoke's scoring in the first half. I'm sure the Huskies did not expect to see Reynolds break loose as he did, scoring 15 second half points. Scottie and Corey S. led all Villanova scorers with 18 a piece.
3. Corey Fisher seemed to recognize early that he was not going to break his run of poor shooting this game (he ended up 1-6 on the day...), so he cut back on his FGAs to concentrate on feeding his teammates. Corey F had 4 assists to go along with his rebound (defensive) and went 3-4 from the free throw line. He finished with 5 points.
4. Dwayne Anderson also cooled off from the outside. He did finish with a 2-4 shooting effort, good for (like Corey Fisher) 5 points. Dwayne, however, pulled in 7 rebounds, notched 2 assists and had 3 steals on the day. Nice set of stats; good to know when the player can't score he is looking for other ways to contribute.

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