Friday, February 19, 2010

Connecticut Post Game: Crunch Time

A Crisis of Confidence...
The Wildcats were a little shakey coming out of the Providence; the final score was Villanova +11, while the projections suggsted a score closer to +19. The 'Cats had underperformed versus Ken Pomeroy's projection in three of their last four games. In the aftermath of the Connecticut game, the count is now four of their last five games. For Connecticut the stakes coming in were much higher. The Huskies had logged their worst effort of the season over the weekend as they fell to a middling Cincinnati team , up in Storrs.

The Official website has an AP wire story and the box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Half-time Adjustments
The breakdown by halves largely details the breakdown in the second half. Normally if Villanova's first half Rating was -2.6 below their opponent's first half rating, and they went on to register a 120.3 Rating in the second half, they should win the game. Note however, how Connecticut's second half Rating was 144.3. The 'Cats won't win too many game giving up that much on defense. Going into the locker room down one at the half has not usually been cause for concern among the Villanova faithful. Coach Calhoun identified one of UConn's strategies (I took it from the press conference he was thinking of the second half particularly) was to deliberately vary the speed of their possessions -- use a half-court set one possession, then penetrate and kick (or push a low post entry pass) early in the next possession. When Walker and Dyson saw a press coming, push the ball up court more quickly (or pass it around in the back court a bit...) to confuse Villanova's defenders. Coach Calhoun identified sideline traps as an opportunity to exploit Villanova's tendency to help-defend. When the 'Cats "closed the trap", the ball handler looked for the undefended Huskie. They were (as the conversion rates suggest) very successful at finding the open man. Connecticut's point distribution for the second half speaks volumes about how well they controlled the flow of the game, ½ of their points came from the free throw line (note the 200.0% FTA/FGA rate in red). All the more surprising given their efficiency at converting FGAs (note they hit 2/3 of their 2s and their 3s).

Notes & Observations
1. Fisher and Reynolds continue to be the most productive 'Cats from the field offensively. Both had eFG% >= 50.0%, while the second wave on offense (King, Stokes, Cheek, Wayns and Pena) had varying degrees of success (or more accurately for most of them...lack of success) at field goal conversion. Everyone in the second wave had an eFG% of 45.0% and 43.8%.
2. Antonio Pena and Corey Stokes redeemed themselves at the line as both made up for poor shooting nights with perfect free throw conversion rates. Their PPWS's were 1.12 and 1.19 respectively.
3. Scottie Reynolds failed to get to the free throw line for only the second time this season (the Delaware game was the first), and the first time in Big East play. Reynolds has averaged nearly seven FTA's per game in Big East play, converting just under six times per Big East game.
4. The staff played 11 players, keeping the starters in for 62.5% of the time, fouls most likely playing a large role in determining the time allocation. Both Stokes and Pena (two of the starting five) fouled out.
5. Probably linked to the foul situation, Isaiah Armwood logged 18 minutes of play. Armwood, whose playing in the OOC portion of the schedule averaged 7.4 minutes per game (mpg), has averaged 13.9 mpg in Big East play. Armwood has played 18 or more minutes in three of Villanova's last four games.

Ref Notes
Jim Burr, Ed Corbett and Tony Greene manned the crew. Both teams absorbed a combined 49 fouls, about 60% logged against Villanova players. Play in the low post was brutal, as Antonio Pena (6th time this season), Maurice Sutton and Corey Stokes (3rd time this season) were DQ'd before the final whistle. All three have refereed at least one other Villanova game this season. The Wildcats are 2-2 with Jim Burr this season, 1-1 with Tony Greene and 3-1 with Ed Corbet. This was only the 3rd time this season that the 'Cats logged eight or more fouls than their opponent (care to guess the other two?). That the Wildcats tend to be whistled for more fouls than their opponents has been noted in a variety of places (like at baseline stats and at Basketball Prospectus) as part of "tsk tsk" commentaries. I have suggested in a number of posts and places that Villanova can (typically) take the additional fouls with little loss of quality of play. There is not a big drop off (thankfully) between #5 and #9/10 in the Wildcat's rotation. Free throw shooting (FTMs actually, converted FTAs) however, is another matter. When the number of fouls and FTAs is even/close, Villanova tends to benefit because they convert FTAs very efficiently (>77% typically). When the disparity is large, as it was for the Georgetown game (the Hoyas had 37 more attempts and netted 22 more points than the 'Cats at the free throw line) and the Connecticut game (24 more attempts, net to 19 more points). While historically UConn has tended to win the battle at the foul line, that is a bit unusual for the Hoyas.

Post Game Press Conferences
"...In the three games we've lost, Fernandez, Clark and Freeman and now Walker...have gone off on us. We didn't have an answer..." -- Coach Wright, Villanova.
Kemba Walker indeed was a problem. The sophomore point guard scored a career-high 29 points and got to the free throw line

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