by Ray Floriani
NEW YORK CITY - It will be Villanova against Tennessee for the Pre-Season NIT championship. The scores from Wednesday night's semifinals:
The Four Factors for the first semifinal:
The pace was not for the faint of heart. Both teams entered MSG averaging over 70 possessions per game. In an 80 possession contest Tennessee had the offensive efficiency edge 96-90. The talk was the Rams' shooting, or lack of it. Their eFG percentage the first half was a horrid 28%. Only a rebounding edge and the Vols 'willingness' to part with the ball (23% TO rate)kept them within one at intermission.
The second half VCU found the range thanks to 6-2 guard Brandon Rozzell (23 points, 19 in the final half). The big story was rebounding. Bruce Pearl's club cleaned the glass the second half. Scotty Hopson, a 6-7 guard who was a matchup problem all night for VCU, had 11 boards to compliment his 18 points and 6-10 Brian Williams enjoying a New York homecoming adding 13 rebounds.
Pace and UCLA-Villanova Notes...
Once again, recorded the Villanova possessions with a time per possession breakdown. Again please note, the 'manual' play by play recording will sometimes differ from the formula -- but not by much.
|Villanova -- 1st Half:|
|0 - 14 sec.||28||3||33||1.18|
|= > 15 sec.||9||1||11||1.19|
|Villanova -- 2nd Half:|
|0 - 14 sec.||18||2||24||1.33|
|= > 15 sec.||16||1||14||0.88|
Villanova got out and ran the first half. That transition and penetration in half court meant a great deal of the possessions were under 15 seconds. The Wildcats were very efficient in that category, In fact, their entire first half was outstanding in offensive efficiency.
The second half UCLA tightened up on defense (mainly in the first 12 minutes). As Jay Wright said, "Ben Howland is an excellent coach and I expected him to make adjustments." Wright pointed out that the UCLA mentor defended the Villanova ball screens a little differently the second half.
In the later minutes of the game, Villanova used more clock with a double digit lead. Better UCLA defense and clock were the reasons for longer second half possessions by the Wildcats.
General Notes and Observations
Ben Howland said his pre game emphasis was to stop transition and keep the Villanova guards in front of them (defensively). Howland admitted his Bruins did neither. Villanova did a good deal of transition damage, a 9-2 scoring edge, the first half. Keeping Corey Fisher in front of the defense was a virtual impossibility. Fisher, a local product who seemed to love every second out there on the big stage in the Pre-Season NIT, was too much for UCLA to handle. Fisher led all scorers with 26 points while adding 4 assists. "He (Fisher) is so good that he shot only 6 of 19 but got to the line (14-15)," per Howland. "He has that ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line a great deal."
One thing Howland didn't prepare or expect to do was pressure Villanova. "They just don't turn the ball over," the UCLA mentor said.
Both coaches agreed Mouphtaou Yarou came up 'big' tonight. The 6-10 Villanova sophomore scored 13 points pulled down 16 rebounds and blocked three shots in 27 minutes. "Having Yarou back there allows our guards to gamble a little more on defense," Wright said. "He (Yarou) can anchor the defense and can stop penetration should our guards get beat. He gives us a nice inside presence." A presence Wright hopes only continues to get better when Big East play arrives.
Malcolm Lee led UCLA with 13 points. Tyler Honeycutt, a 15 PPG scorer, was a non factor scoring eight. A group of Nova fans behind me on press row heckled Honeycutt to no end. Don't think that was the key, just chalk it up to Villanova defense forcing him into a 3 of 8 shooting night.
Speaking of defense, liked how Jay Wright showed some zone looks late both halves. The zone, especially in the first half found UCLA losing player movement on offense and getting tentative.
Impressed with Maalik Wayns. The sophomore guard scored 19 points while adding 6 rebounds. He is very fast end to end and often penetrated and kicked out to an open teammate for a three point attempt. Howland knew how good Fisher was but admitted Wayns posed more problems than expected.
Impressed with UCLA's ability to compete and stay with it. The young Bruins trailed by 15 at the half, at Madison Square Garden and could have folded. "They never wavered from their game plan," Wright said of the Bruins, "give them credit." UCLA had the game a two possession affair midway through the second half but Villanova regrouped and sealed the contest.
Wright said Tennessee is similar to UCLA in their length and athleticism and will pose some problems on Friday. It will be a reunion for Wright and the Vols' Scotty Hopson. Wright coached the Tennessee star in a scrimmage against the NBA team before the FIBA championships this past Summer.
The Breakdown by Halves and a Few Comments
The split by halves shows a dominant first half performance followed by a passable (but less efficient) second half performance.
1. From Ray's breakdown of possession timing and scoring efficiency (points per possession) -- Villanova's efficient conversion early in a possession is not surprising. The same is generally true for many D1 teams and has been enshrined as a truism for at least four decades -- "fast breaks yield easy points". What is surprising is how much Villanova uses the fast break/delayed break to score. Note that the 'Cats scored within the first 15 seconds on 75% of their possessions in the first half. All < 15 possessions were not fast breaks, but the scoring play was probably early enough in the possession that UCLA did not have time to set their defense. In the second half the Wildcats took that shot early in 52.9% of their possessions, and their efficiency dropped dramatically. Coach Howland's gameplan, "stop the transition" was spot on. The Bruins did not perform.
2. The Wildcats' rebounding numbers continue to impress. Against UCLA they held the Bruins offensive boards to less than the D1 "standard" 33% for both halves. In fact, at 25-26% for both halves, the Bruins were clearly dominated. Remember that Ben Howland built those pre-Dixon Pittsburgh teams with dominating bigs. He has not accomplished that in Westwood.
3. Wayns and Fisher continue to garner the lion's share of touches and shots. No question these are two extremely talented guards, but Villanova games so far have fallen into one of two categories. The possessions & shots have been pretty distributed among six or seven players or Fisher and Wayns have garnered a very large portion of the touches and shots, leaving little for the other three players on the floor. The super backcourt had possession rates touching 40% apiece in this outing...the first type. Following the pattern, one will have a so-so outing while other will struggle with his shot. Both took about one-in-three of the available field goal attempts when they were on the floor. And the pattern held in this game with Wayns posting 19 points on 7-16 (46.9% eFG%) shooting, which yielded a 1.03 PPWS to contrast with Fisher's 26 points on 6-19 (31.6% eFG%) shooting, which yielded a 1.00 PPWS largely because Fish had a 14-15 night from the charity stripe. I love the combination, but think more equitable distribution of shots (see the the player breakdown for the Marist game) would improve the overall efficiency of the squad (they will score more points more easily).
4. Mouphtaou Yarou arrived on the big stage, as the national media had their first good look at what the big guy can do -- he posted his second career double-double, also his second consecutive double-double game. Villanova dominated the offensive boards because Mouph grabbed an unbelievable 21.2% of the offensive rebounds when he was on the floor (about 66% of the time). Grabbing 21% of the defensive rebounds will get a player rated in Pomeroy's Top 400 (or so). Duke's Brian Zoubek, Pomeroy's #1 offensive rebounder last season grabbed 21.4% of the offensive boards when he was on the court. The #2 player grabbed 19.6%. Mouph also grabbeed 38.0% of the defensive rebounds when he was playing Wednesday night. He will not post numbers like that every night, but combined with Pena, Sutton and Stokes, and Villanova has a very good rebounding front court.
5. Corey Stokes had another outstanding offensive outing. The senior is not taking over games (he is at a disadvantage as Wayns and Fish bring the ball up...), but is posting extremely efficient shooting numbers. Stokes and Yarou formed a very efficient third/fourth option on offense, as Yarou had an eFG% of 55.6% exceeded by Stokes' 60.0 effort. Yarou had a 1.14 PPWS, again topped by Stokes' own 1.34 (no that is not a typo).
Recap/Analysis from a Bruin fan (yeah Tydides, those 3-4 possessions at the end of the first half did you guys in...)
another Bruin perspective
Analysis from Chris over at The Nova Blog.
From the Nova Basketball Report.com -- Joe's thoughts on the game.
Luke Winn over at Sports Illustrated has the 'Cats ranked #9 before the UCLA game, but has some good insight into what the Villanova's two guards are up to. I have to think Winn will move Villanova up a spot or two (or three?) after this weekend.