Friday, November 21, 2008

Niagara Post Game: November Games...

When the teams took the court for warm-ups the fans of Nova Nation could be forgiven for any confusion. The team with the scrappy but undersized scorer, the team with tall guy in the middle surrounded by four players at least a ½ foot shorter than he, the team with a 6-5 guard impersonating a power forward...was wearing purple unis. The Purple Eagles of Niagara were in the house...and they had come to play.

The box score reads "77-62", but the game was closer than the score suggests, the 'Cats, favored by nearly 20 when the line opened in Vegas, could not sustain a double digit lead until nearly 32 minutes into the game. The Let's Go Nova Blog was first to press with a place holder post that promised a story yesterday afternoon. Chris over at the I Bleed Blue and White Blog posted a summary that featured links to web-based recaps and box scores, and some personal reactions to the game and players. Tim over at the Nova News Blog has been first to post lately, but this time he was third. Tim provides a recap, discusses a number of the important elements of the game/win, and provides links to video and (again) the box score. I almost feel lax in providing only links to the "official box score", AP wire recap and Mike Sheridan's post game interviews located on the official web site. For those who cannot get enough, try Joe Juliano's piece, "Villanova Turns Back Gritty Niagara Team" from the Inky. And if you crave more, I guarantee Mike Kern's piece, "Villanova wears down scrappy Niagara for win" should just about do. That title alone leaves me with a "one bite too many" feeling.

First SecondGameFirst SecondGame

What I Expected to Find...
As I was putting together the game preview I realized Niagara's lack of front court size (combined with experience), Egemonye aside, would be a problem. Versus Towson, Coach Mihalich started Benn at the #4, suggesting that after a month of practice he realized a 6-5 Philly Guard was more suited for the rigors of the paint than his two veteran reserves and his three biggie recruits. That could be very good for the Wildcats. Cunningham and Pena were going to have a field day, or so I thought. I expected to find Dante's and Antoine's first half box scores to be stuffed plumper than a Christmas stocking, while Nova's back court had a few 3s mixed with a handful of 2s -- maybe 10 or so for the back court, and 12+ for the paint players (Villanova has been pretty consistent in their FGAs by half, staying mostly in the mid to upper 20s...). Back court might feel neglected, but they would be compensated with all of those assists. Rebounds? Of course the 'Cats would dominate on the boards, they had the height advantage. Bilal Benn and maybe Benson Egemonye with 2 (hopefully more...) fouls? Of course.

What I Actually Found...
The fouls, but little else, were there in the box score. Between them Cunningham and Pena had 3 FGAs out of a total of 24 taken. The 'Cats had 10 points in the paint (matching Niagara's total...). And 2 fouls apiece. 3 FGAs and 4 fouls...their playing time had been reduced to 24 minutes total (out of a possible 40 minutes...). Their substitutes, Shane Clark, Frank Tchuisi, Russell and Casiem Drummond logged a total of 16 minutes, with 0 FGAs. Villanova was up by 6 going into the locker room at the half, and looking at that box score it was almost a relief. Fans in attendance related that Villanova went up by 13 (27-14) at the 8:51 mark of the first half and Niagara went into a zone that seemed to stall out the Wildcat's offense. And it does seem that at that point through the end of the half Villanova was out scored 9-16. Of the last 8 FGAs taken (all by the guards) for the half 6 were 3FGAs (made 1) and 2 were 2FGAs (made 0). And the missing 6 points were scored at the free throw line.

Consistent with their first two games, the 'Cats registered second half improvements (the locker room adjustments are working...). Their higher offensive rating reflected more efficient field goal shooting (note the PPWS however declined half-over-half), significantly better rebounding, coupled with modest improvements on turnovers. And the Wildcats had significantly more free throw opportunities (though Pena and Cunningham were also DQ'ed by fouls). Kern was right, "Scrappy Niagara" was worn down.

Notes & Observations
1. This was the first game where Villanova's second half defensive numbers were better than their first half numbers...the locker room adjustments worked (and the team stayed focused?), as Niagara's rating declined from 91.3 to 82.0 half-over-half. Given that they actually improved in two of the four factors (turnovers and FTA/FGA -- and rather significantly at getting to the line...), the determining factor was rebounding. The Purple Eagles' field goal efficiency did decline very modestly from the first to the second half, but their offensive rebounding took a huge hit; and it showed in their rating. Niagara may rely on it more than folks realize.
2. Cunningham and Pena were too much for Niagara to handle as evidenced by their respective FTA/FGAs and eFG%s. For Dante the numbers were 100.0 and 200.0 -- he hit all of his FGAs (3-3) and took 6 free throws (200% of the number of field goal attempts...). Antonio's numbers were 100.0 and 300.0 -- he too was 100% on FGAs (2-2) and he took 300% more FTAs than FGAs (6 and 2), too bad the stripes took them out of the game so early.
3. Between them, Fisher, Redding and Reynolds took nearly 5 in 6 shots when they were on the court together. Reggie (Shot% was 24.5 -- well worth it too, given his PPWS was 1.28...) was the most efficient of the three...
Scottie Reynolds31.532.435.71.01
Corey Fisher25.627.837.50.90
Reggie Redding18.324.560.01.28

No question Redding benefited from being the third option on offense for much of the game. On a night when Stokes was nursing a minor injury and no one could find a big, Redding delivered.
4. Though less than 100%, Corey Stokes was nevertheless effective playing limited offensive role. He scored efficiently (his eFG% was 75.0, with a PPWS of 1.38).

Ref Notes
The crew, William Bush, John Cahill & Tim Higgins, continued the whistling exhibition begun by the Fordham game crew (Jeff Clark, Pat Driscoll & Earl Walton) on Monday night. Bush and Co. blew two more fouls total than Clark & Co. Monday. The game flow virtually stopped halfway through the second half as that crew called 81% of the game's fouls in the last 20 minutes of play. The four fouls in the last 75 seconds (Nova +10 at that point), appear to have been possession fouls (at least initially), as after Nova converted the FT, the Niagara wings launched 3s. The Purple Eagles did get to the line 8 more times than the Rams. Like the Rams they also took a technical. 50 fouls in the game ties the record from last season (no, not the same crew...), but is below some of the "Foul Line Parades" of the 2005-06 season.

Roster Notes -- Villanova
1. Dwayne Anderson did not play. Foot.
2. Casiem Drummond played 2 minutes and appeared (according to those in attendance...) to have difficulty with his foot. Especially troubling given the foul problems that beset Clark, Cunningham and Pena.
3. Corey Stokes played the game with his thumb wrapped. No doubt the reason for his yielding the starting spot to Reggie Redding. Stokes did log 27 minutes, scoring 8 points on 2-4 shooting.
4. Maurice Sutton was DNP. Redshirt, given the PT available by Cunningham and Pena's untimely fouls, seems a foregone conclusion now.

2 comments: said...

Good stuff.

Any statistical analysis on Texas Tech's 167 points? :)

greyCat said...

I saw that last night and did a quick review. I posted a few thoughts on the Rivals message board. I might expand/rework for a post here. Texas Tech (believe it or not...) did a very decent job on defense. The score is deceptive.