Thursday, February 4, 2010

Seton Hall Post Game: Crunch Time

I like to make them squirm -- Bobby Fisher
There is a point in a chess game when one player realizes he (or she...) is at a fatal disadvantage. And from the other side of the board, you can see in their eyes, as they survey their position, that all options lead to the same place. Checkmate. At the 9:41 mark the Seton Hall Pirates had erased Villanova's lead on a layup by Jeremy Hazell. After jockeying for 80 seconds Villanova's Corey Stokes broke the tie with a 3 pointer from the corner. And over the next 117 seconds Villanova added six more points to their once-and-now held lead. And Seton Hall never took a shot over that time. The Pirates' Jeremy Hazell took a 3FGA at the 6:30 mark, and another at the 6:07 mark. Neither went in and freshman forward Isaiah Armwood grabbed Hazell's second miss, even as he was fouled by Jeff Robinson. The rookie walked the length of the floor and padded the lead with two more points. 73-62. With the lead at double digits, the Pirates staged a four point mini-run, scoring off of a dunk by Robinson and a layup by senior guard, Nunu Harvey. And 13 seconds later, Scottie Reynolds nailed a three and pushed the margin back out to 10. Hazell drove the length of the floor, and when faced by three Wildcat defenders and no place to go he double clutched, released the ball and fell backward to the court. Squirming. Rebounded by Armwood, an outlet pass to Reggie Redding who led a 5-on-4 break (Hazell, regaining his feet, was in a deep conversation with a referee about the no-call) and hit Antonio Pena in the low post for a dunk. 78-66, timeout the Hall. Squirming again as the home crowd exploded.

The Official website has an AP wire story, some post game quotes and the box score. The breakdown by halves...

OpponentSeton Hall 
 Offense Defense

Two Paths, Same Destination
The pace (number of possessions per half) is consistent half-over-half, a little unusual when the point margin is seven going into the half. Normally the team on the short end of that score will come out pushing the pace (increasing the possessions) in an attempt to get more scoring opportunities. The team ahead tends to want to slow it down (without losing their aggression). Posting a 113.2 offensive efficiency (Villanova scored about 1.13 points per possession) in each half is very unusual, but interesting beyond the identical efficiency because it illustrates the variety of ways a team can arrive at that number. In the first half Villanova had a mediocre shooting effort, but compensated by not turning the ball over much (13.8% of their possessions) and getting to the line (about four times for every 10 FGAs). The second half saw a marked improvement in the Wildcats' shooting, but more turnovers (better than one in five possessions ended in a turnover rather than an FGA or FTA), a significantly fewer free throw opportunities. Note the PPWS for each half reflects the success or lack of same, from the floor.

Notes & Observations
1. The offense flowed through Corey Fisher (shot% 27.8%), Antonio Pena (26.9%), Scottie Reynolds (24.2%) and (when he was on the court) Maalik Wayns (38.6%) Fisher, Pena and Reynolds were efficient and prolific, with eFG%s of 54.5%, 58.3% and 54.2% respectively as they each scored in double digits.
2. Corey Stokes had a terrific game, going 4-8 (3-5, 1-3) from the field, scoring that may not have been especially prolific. Though he took only 20% of the shots (well within the team framework) while he was on the court, his offensive contribution was very timely. As the Pirates drew near in the second half Stokes dropped a pair of 3 pointers that put the 'Cats back on top and kept them there through the end of the game. He added five boards to Villanova's huge rebounding advantage (50-31), he had two assists to one turnover.
3. Maalik Wayns, who scored six points on 1-7 (0-1, 1-6) and 4-5 shooting, grabbed a single board, dished a single assist against a single turnover (with one steal) in 11 minutes, had a "freshman" night. Isaiah Armwood, scoring two points on a 2-2 night from the line in the game's last four mintues, to go with 5 (2-3-5) boards, one steal and one block, had a "veteran" night. The 'Cats did not need points, but they did need rebounds and a steady hand at the line when the Pirates drew near. Armwood gave them that.
4. This marks the 11th consecutive game in which the staff played 10 or more players. The starters logged 66.7% of the PT, on the higher end of the scale, suggesting the staff may have felt the game was closer than the score would indicate. Note also no starters were in foul trouble, the circumstances not forcing the staff to situatioal substitutions.

With his 15 point outing, senior guard Scottie Reynolds joined eight other Villanovans who scored at least 2,000 points in their careers on the Mainline. As many (led no doubt by Mike Sheridan's well written post game notes) have noted, Scottie scored his 2,000th point at the 11:58 mark of the second half. Scottie joins 459 other D1 players who have scored 2,000 or more points. Duke leads all D1 programs with nine players; Villanova is second with eight. The all-time leading Villanova scorer is Kerry Kittles with 2,243 points over a career that spanned the 1992-96 seasons. I was asked a few times in the preseason about the probabilities Scottie could break Kittle's record, and I usually responded "no", but he would most likely score more than 2,100 points, becoming only the second Villanovan to achieve that honor. What I did not anticipate was Scottie's very fast start on the season (he usually has a tentative OOC, coming on strong as conference play gets underway), and now I suspect that if he does not break the record he will come very close, joining Kittles at the 2,200+ point level before he is done. The number of games the team plays from here on out, combined with Scottie's production/efficiency will decide. Scottie now has 2,008 points and Villanova has nine regular season conference games remaining. Add at least one BET game, and (hopefully) at least one NCAA game, and Scottie would have to average 22 points per game if Villanova played only two games beyond the regular season. A more likely scenario has Villanova playing two BET games (about their average over the past three seasons), and at least three NCAA games. Should Villanova's season extend to (say) 14 games, Scottie could maintain his current pace (about 18 ppg) and score at least 2,243 points.

About Jeremy Hazell...
Possibly Coach Gonzalez's most unusual coaching move put Seton Hall's leading point scorer (460) Jeremy Hazell on the bench at the 4:06 mark of the second half, with the Wildcats holding a 12 point lead (78-66). The post game quotes omit any reference to questions (or responses) about Hazell's benching, odd given the role Hazell plays for the Pirates. New Jersey report Jerry Carino, present at the game, supplied the missing portion of the post game presser in his Hoops Haven blog entry about the game (scroll down to the Gonzo Quotes: section of the entry). As the SHU Coach saw it, Hazell was taking poor percentage shots and not playing with his teammates. The benching, with the game in the balance, was a teaching moment, one that will hopefully pay dividends for the Pirates as the balance of the season plays out. Hazell is the most prolific scorer (460 points, over 200 more points than the next Pirate player) and shooter (359 FGAs, 150 more than the next player) on the squad. With an offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy) of 120.6, he is the wind in the Pirates' sails (sorry about that...). But he is spectacularly inconsistent. And under some circumstances (he was head-to-head with Villanova's Scottie Reynolds?), prone to terrible judgement. "The Benching" has set off a firestorm among the SHU faithful, usually condemning the coach for the decision. The "The Day After" entry from the Gonzo Ball Blog a representative example. How will this play out? The ball is in Hazell's court...

Ref Notes
Jim Burr, Pat Driscoll and John Gaffney manned the crew. Only 39 total fouls were whistled for both sides, considerably lower than the past 4-6 games. The Pirates got to the line only 12 times, below the standard deviation for visiting teams in Villanova home games. This was Driscoll's first Villanova game this season, Burr (2-1) and Gaffney (3-0) have officiated at least two other games so far.

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