Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pittsburgh Post Game -- Beast of the East

Post Game Pressers...
Seeing the Pittsburgh players, stunned from last second turn of events, have to field questions about "How it felt to..." was heartbreaking. Who could blame them for the blank stares, the mumbled, disconnected answers and a hint here and there of defiance in their voices. A determined drive had put them back within 2 as the clocked ticked under 30 seconds, an errant 94 foot pass had forced Cunningham to attempt a save that bounced high and within Jermaine Dixon's hands. Dixon alertly passed to Levance Fields at the sideline, who put the ball on the deck and dribbled to mid court, readying the Panthers for one more offensive set. Corey Fisher stepped in front, trying to take a charge, but the call went the other way, putting the senior guard on the line for 2 shots, his toss toward the basket a vain attempt to convince the referees he was really attempting a 3FGA. Calmly stepping to the line Fields hit both FTAs (a Nova timeout notwithstanding) to tie the game. 5.5 seconds left and a miracle comeback, surely the coming OT was divinely inspired, but ultimately not to be. Stunning. The Panthers played a tremendous game, one I am sure they will look back in the years to come, bitter, but proud of their effort. Coach Dixon's team did everything they were supposed to do; they just did not put enough points on the board. I doubt I will have time to post links to other wrap-ups, apologies to my fellow Nova bloggers.

The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Observations & Notes...
Unlike the Duke game, this one took on the bi-polar look of a number of other Big East games. Each team spent the 1st half taking the measure of their opponent (a defensive struggle), and then turned the 2nd half into a shooting match. The difference between this and earlier, similar Big East games is the pace remained largely consistent half-to-half.
1. Scottie Reynolds has established his place in the Villanova Pantheon with his half-court dribble drive to hit the winning basket. Though left with about 5 seconds to make a play, Scottie had the presence of mind to take it to the tin, rather than settle for a 12-15 jump shot. Terrific instinct on the young man's part -- not only did he increase tremendously the odds he could get the shot to drop, but he also took another 1 to 1.5 seconds off the clock, leaving the Panthers with 0.5 seconds to attempt another comeback. Unlike the first 2 rounds, Scottie looked quicker. His knee dings appear to have healed. Reggie Redding's inbound pass, coupled with Dante Cunningham's catch and pass to a streaking Reynolds was an excellent metaphore for the team work this squad has shown all season, Villanova's own trio of Tinker to Evers to Chance.
2. Anderson, Clark and Cunningham proved to be the most efficient scorers Saturday.

Cunningham and Anderson were work horses on offense, while Clark struck early in the game with a barrage of unexpected 3s. Cunningham has been a consistent force on offense this season. The output from these three was a little surprising given how good the Pittsburgh frontcourt has been this season.
3. Dwayne Anderson is going out with a bang. The forward has bumped up both his efficiency and production in the post season. Dwayne has improved his Big East eFG% & PPWS from 51.1/1.10 to 60.4/1.27, while increasing his shots & points per game from 7.6/9.4 to 8.8/12.7.
4. Scottie Reynolds has crossed over the 1600 point threshold with the Pittsburgh game. He has averaged over 530 points per season through his junior season, and with similar production his senior season (should he return for his senior season), will become the 8th Villanovan to score to score > 2,000 career points.
5. The Class of 2009 sets new records with each game they win.

Ref Notes
Patrick E. Driscoll, Randy McCall and Tom O'Neill ran the crew on Saturday night. The Wildcats gathered a higher number of whistles, the Panthers a higher number of free throws, but within the standard deviation for Nova games played on a neutral court this season. Shane and Dante had to sit for a few 2nd half minutes with 4 fouls, but were available at the end of the game.

Next Up
The fifth round of the NCAAs -- the National Semi-Final game to be played in Detroit, Michigan. The opponent will be ACC regular season champion, North Carolina, winners of the South Region. The game will be played Saturday at 8:47pm.

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