Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monmouth Post Game: Keep Away Games

The first season my son played travel soccer we found ourselves somewhere in Central Jersey facing another first year travel team that was clearly struggling. Our guys took a 2-0 lead into the half, but came out on fire from the coach's halftime talk. They quickly score 4 more goals (as we could see the life drain from the faces of the other team's players...), and the coach pulled his forwards and then calling to the team, reversed his cap. The pace changed instantly. Our guys passed on open shots and instead swung the ball to the other side of the field (or "heeled" it to a trailing teammate). "What's going on?" I asked another parent. "Coach called keep away" he responded, "He doesn't want to run up the score. Not good for the kids and the league frowns on it"...I wasn't at the game last night, but I wonder if, at the 15 minute mark of the second half (about 25 minutes into the game...) if Coach Wright didn't reverse his cap (or do whatever he does to signal the 'Cats to ease up).

Looks like Tim over at Nova News Blog beat out the bloggers over a I Bleed Blue and White Blog in the race to post, with his "Nova Owns Monmouth" entry. The IBBW guys posted a good recap, "Villanova Blasts Monmouth". That was the only undetermined (and most competitive) element of this game after Nova won the tipoff. For the record, NN blew out IBBW by nearly 2 hours. And Tim provided another entertaining and informative summary/highlight of the game.

The Philadelphia media did an excellent job containing their enthusiasm for the Wildcats. "The only thing that really counted was, nobody else on Villanova's injury-plagued basketball team got hurt..." intoned Mike Kern over at the PDN. His recap, "Villanova cruises to healthy win over Monmouth", continued the "health" theme from the headline into the story's first paragraph. Kern provided a compact summary of the important points (including post game quotes). Worth a look. The Inky's Joe Juliano provided a more thoughtful piece in his "Villanova torches Monmouth". Juliano wove a series of post game quotes into the narrative of the recap, thus he provided context for a number of the staff's post game observations. The official website has the usual AP recap and post game notes (complements of Mike Sheridan?), along with the official box score. The breakdown by halves:

 Offense Defense

Coach Wasn't Exaggerating...About the Defense
"I thought we played a great first half, our best of the season...There was attention to detail. I would have liked to have seen us come out in the second half and keep our concentration longer..."
-- Jay Wright, 11/25/08 on the Monmouth game.

The Wildcats have posted better offensive numbers for three other halves this season (proof this schedule has no strength?), but for defense, the 40.7 defensive rating posted by the Wildcats (that means the Hawks scored on average, less than ½ point per possession), there has been none better, by far. This might be the best half of defense in the past 3 seasons. I have highlighted (in green...) those cells of interest. Hawk shooting collapsed (eFG% above) -- they managed a 3 point-like 5-21 on all FGAs that half. Note also the turnovers. As suggested in my preview, the Hawks are turnover prone, especially (though not exclusively) via steals. The table above notes Monmouth lost nearly 1 in 3 of their possessions in the first half, more than ½ of them (18.8 -- see Stl%) from steals. But the rebounding grabbed my attention. The 'Cats did not allow an offensive board in the first half. Considering how poorly the Hawks shot, that is a good many opportunities.

Notes & Observations
1. Shane Clark logged another very quiet, but very efficient game from the field. He maintains an eye-popping 81.2 eFG% and 1.67 PPWS. He was 4-4 (2-2, 2-2, 0-0) for 10 points against Monmouth. Clark's Poss% and Shot% point to a role player level involvement on offense (4th/5th option) going forward. Coming off the bench to inject some energy into the offense appears to be his niche this season.
2. Antonio Pena fouled out of his second consecutive game; troubling given the issues involving the other members of the front court.
3. Scottie and Corey Fisher had very inefficient nights again. Scottie was "saved by the line" versus Niagara, but this game exposed his recent poor run of field goal shooting. Scottie did get 3 steals, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Versus Niagara Fish was able to compensate by grabbing a few rebounds (6 actually), dishing 4 assists and forcing 3 steals. But there was little to point to offensively (or defensively) in this game.

Ref Notes
The crew, Ed Corbett, Joe Lindsey and Frank Scagliotta, was well behaved tonight. Thirty total fouls, with a 26 free throws, combined, taken by both teams is among the lowest in three seasons.

Roster Notes
1. Monmouth's Whitney Coleman was injured in the Hawk's first game (obviously DNP last night) and is out for the season. As the Hawks leading scorer and acknowledged leader going into the season, his loss is especially hard felt.
2. Hawk point guard James Hett twisted his ankle at the 6 minute mark of the first half and did not return.
3. Villanova center Casiem Drummond was DNP coach's decision. Drum was suspended for the game and did not dress nor sit with the team. He is due to return to practice Wednesday.
4. Wildcat wing Corey Stokes played with his thumb taped for the second straight game. It apparently did not bother him as much as he returned to the starting lineup and scored 18 on 6-13 shooting.

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