Saturday, March 14, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: The BET Semi-Finals

By Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - The Big East Tournament is over for the Wildcats. Now it’s the waiting for Selection Sunday. A few thoughts on Villanova’s performance in the semifinal. The first four minutes of each half are crucial. As it turned out the initial 90 seconds of the second half set the tone. The Cats did a nice job establishing a seven point halftime lead. In two possessions that ended in treys, Louisville was within one and in a great position. Nova coach Jay Wright addressed that saying it happened against Marquette and almost cost the game, and here tonight. "We are playing hard," Wright said. "But we have to come out the second half and be more aggressive." Louisville played excellent defense, specifically the second half. "I think Louisville is the best defensive team in the country," said Wright. Louisville did a superb job on Scottie Reynolds, limiting him to 1 of 6 shooting and two points in 38 minutes. Another big factor in this game. The Louisville press in the second half was effective and created offensive opportunities , especially in transition, for the Cardinals. Again, Wright made a great point noting a press is often more effective and difficult to handle when a team presses with the lead as opposed to trailing.

Syracuse-West Virginia was about pace. Obviously the Orange weren’t about to get into a sprint. They were coming off a marathon. For the second straight night we had Syracuse in overtime. Tonight it was one extra session as the Orange earned a 74-69 victory over the Mountaineers.

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At the half it was a 28 possession contest. Jim Boeheim didn’t expect West Virginia to push the pace or press and WVU coach Bob Huggins had no intention to do so. Orange appear to be charmed as Eric Devendorf buried a half court shot at the first half buzzer to give Syracuse a 36-29 lead after the Mountaineers cut it to four seconds earlier.

Boeheim was pleased with the defensive effort. The defensive PPP was a bit high and WVU shot 53% (effective FG pct) but Syracuse did force 18 turnovers resulting in that 28% rate for Bob Huggins club. Jonny Flynn, a night after logging 67 minutes, went the full 45 scoring 15 points. Flynn did miss a free throw (5 of 6) having gone 16 of 16 the night/morning before. Devendorf led all with 23 points while WVU was paced by Devin Ebanks (22 points) and Da’Sean Butler (21 points).

Should be a good final. Louisville is playing very well but Syracuse has momentum.

"Sorry we didn’t give you a longer game tonight but we tried" - Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

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