Thursday, February 5, 2009

Providence Post Game -- Pace

A trip to Friartown and a game at the Dunkin Donuts Center has always been an honest barometer for the Wildcats. If they can play the Friars there without losing focus, not to mention the game, I have taken as a good sign. The team is making progress. The 'Cats won last night, 94-91 in one of those games that had a strange rhythm throughout. In an earlier season (2002 perhaps?) the 'Cats would have lost that game. In an earlier game this season, the Wildcats did struggle at the line late, not quite able to put an opponent away. Not last night. Faced with that sense of inevitability one feels when an opponent heaves a prayer from 3 feet this side of the midcourt line that hits nothing but net, and then follows with a rebound that pops out of your best rebounder's hands with a half dribble out the arc, barely square to the basket with another heave that falls, the 'Cats exhaled, and then hit the free throws they had to. The official website has the usual AP wire story & the official box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Half Time Adjustments...
The first half went according to script. As the table above suggests, Nova's offensive efficiency was 118.5, above their adjusted efficiency (111.5), even as their defensive efficiency, 82.5, bettered their season adjusted efficiency (87.3). The first half was a series of three runs, two by the 'Cats that served as bookends to a run by the Friars. Scottie Reynolds fueled the first spurt, a 12-2 run that put the 'Cats up by 10. The Friars stormed back with an 18-8 run that knotted the game at 20 somewhere around the 8:37 mark. The 'Cats responded with one last 29-14 run to take a 15 point (49-34) lead into the locker room. That last run was sparked by consecutive 3 point conversions by spark plug Dwayne Anderson, who stroked a third 3 later in the run. Unlike the first run, 4 players contributed points in ways that highlighted the squad's offensive potential. The first half pace, 41.2, was unusually high, possibly the highest number of possessions in a half this season. VMI and North Carolina play at that pace.

While the 'Cats were able to push the scoring differential out to 19/20 twice during the 2nd half (at the 14:00 mark and later at the 11:00 mark), the Friar's guard corp, Jeff Xavier, Weyinmi Efejuku, Marshon Brooks, Brian McKenzie and Sharaud Curry unleashed a barrage of 3 point attempts (24!), an uncomfortably large number of which (11) found the net. The preview posted earlier this week noted that shooting efficiency (eFG%) and offensive rebounding rates (OR%) might serve as keys to a win (or loss). The red & green highlighted sections in the table (above) monitor how well Villanova performed in those categories, relative to season-long numbers. The sea of red that covers virtually every defensive category in the 2nd half bears testament to Nova's need for improvement, particularly 3 point defense and forcing turnovers. Coming into the game Providence was the #58 ranked team for offensive efficiency (per Ken Pomeroy's Stats Page) with a rating of 108.4 (raw) and 109.3 (adjusted). The Friars played offense to their efficiency, largely by converting 3FGMs and a great 2nd half effort on the boards. 133.3 is not the Wildcat's worst half of defense this season by the way -- that honor goes to the 1st half of the UConn game (not obvious because the 'Cats also posted one of their best offensive halves, making the effort a wash).

1. Scottie Reynolds broke out of his offensive slump, posting an eFG% of 50.0 and a PPWS of 1.23, while scoring 31 points in 35 minutes of play. Scottie lived at the line in the 2nd half, hitting 10 of 11 FTAs to seal the win. Putting the ball in his hands for the Wildcat's last possessions has become the strategy in games of 3 or less possessions. He forces a Hobbsian on Nova's opponents -- foul him and virtually concede the 2 points, or guard him closely as the clock winds down and make him force the play. Largely unrecognized was Scottie's contribution on the offensive boards, where he grabbed a very impressive 10.2% of the OBoards when he was on the court.
2. Dwayne Anderson recorded his first double-double of the season as he scored a season high 19 points to go with his 10 (3-7-10) rebounds. Dwayne uncharacteristically took 4 of his 11 FGAs as 3s, going 3-3 on 3s in the first half. Anderson came to Villanova with the reputation as a 3 point shooter, but had dialed that back last season to concentrate on rebounding and defense (and scoring inside the arc).
3. Dante Cunningham logged his 7th double-double of the season, going 5-5 from the field on his way to a 12 point, 11 (4-7-11) rebound night. Dante's efficiencies, eFG% (100.0) and PPWS (1.63 -- his 2nd highest of the season) are again very impressive. Cunningham took only 8.7% of the team's FGAs when he was on the floor (85% of the game). I am not sure why his teammates did not look for him more, though the 'Cats unusually low assist rate (36.7 for the game), coupled with a very high turnover rate (23.4 in the 2nd half), suggest the Friar made denying an entry pass to the low post a priority. Dante was whistled for 4 fouls, breaking his streak of 4 consecutive halves without a foul.
4. Corey Fisher is becoming an impact player for the 'Cats. Corey F logged only 16 minutes before fouling out, but took 36.8% of the team's FGAs during that period, scoring 12 points on 5-10 (1-4, 4-6, 1-1) shooting. Fisher was both prolific and efficient, posting an eFG% of 55.0 & a PPWS of 1.15. This was the second (of nine) Big East games that Corey F has fouled out of, the third in which he has been whistled for 4 or more fouls.
5. Reggie Redding posted his 2nd double-double of the season, on a quiet 12 points, complements of 6-11 (0-3, 6-8, 0-0) shooting and 11 (4-7-11) rebounds.
6. The offense, based on Shot%, appears to have gone through Fisher, Reynolds and Stokes. Reynolds and Fisher had relatively efficient nights, and were backed by a 2nd wave of scorers -- Dwayne Anderson and Reggie Redding.

Ref Notes
The crew was manned by veterans Tim Higgins, Ed Hightower and Paul Janssen. This was Hightower and Janssen's first Wildcat game this season. The game was physical, with a total of 50 fouls (24 against Nova, 26 against Providence) called. The number called against the Friars was more than the average called on Nova's away opponents and the 'Cats did get to the line more (above the standard deviation) than usual for an away game. The number of points scored at the line was, however, consistent with the proportion of points free throw shooting typically contributes to Nova's point total.

Other recaps/analysis
IBBW has posted 2 recap/reaction pieces and a highlight clip. (Good work Chris). posted a recap.

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