by Ray Floriani
NEW YORK CITY -- For the second straight year the Big East finished in a runner-up position int the Pre-Season NIT at Madison Square Garden. Tennessee defeated Villanova 78-68, in what was, a very defensive oriented contest.
The Four Factors for the consolation:
VCU was devastated on the glass but extremely efficient overall. The pace was to the Rams' liking (UCLA 80 possessions, VCU 76) with Shaka Smart's club owning an impressive 117-106 edge in offensive efficiency. As noted, UCLA owned the backboards largely due to Tyler Honeycutt (13 rebounds) and Reeves Nelson (10). The turnover rate was a killer for the Bruins with Honeycutt and Reeves in the mix again, combining for 8 of the 21 Bruin miscues. Another encouraging sign for VCU was inside play. The Rams scored 34% of their points from three but displayed a nice presence in the paint in Jamie Skeen. The 6-9 senior scored a game high 23 points while grabbing a team high 9 boards.
Pace and Villanova-Tennessee Notes...
Recorded the Villanova possessions with a time per possession breakdown for this game as well. Note the "manual" play by play recording will sometimes differ from the formula -- but not by much.
|Villanova -- 1st Half:|
|0 - 14 sec.||23||8||24||1.04|
|= > 15 sec.||14||0||6||0.43|
|Villanova -- 2nd Half:|
|0 - 14 sec.||27||4||29||1.07|
|= > 15 sec.||10||1||9||0.90|
In the first half Villanova had a larger percentage of faster (under 15 seconds) possessions. Both teams got back defensively and stopped transition as fast break points were 0-0 at halftime. The longer the Villanova possessions wore on the less efficient the offense was as Tennessee just locked down defensively with the clock ticking.
The second half saw the Wildcat efficiency an improvement in the longer possessions. Most of the charted possessions were of a faster variety as Villanova was playing catch up the latter part of the half. In other words, it was no time to get tentative and hold the basketball.
General Notes and Observations
Have a feeling a number of Big East opponents will contact Knoxville for a game tape of the final. Tennessee stopped the Villanova guards. Even coach Jay Wright commented, "we as a staff have to figure another way to play when our guards are shut down." That is not going to happen a great deal but it is a possibility against some of the elite defenses faced in Big east play.
UCLA wanted to stop transition and stay in front of the Villanova guards. They couldn't. Tennessee had the same game plan but with better defenders they were able to. Corey Fisher suffered through a 3 point 6 turnover night on 1 of 10 shooting.
Credit Scotty Hopson, a well deserved MVP, for a great deal of the defense imposed by Tennessee. Hopson, a 6-7 guard is very long, athletic and was quick enough to stay with and bother the Villanova backcourt.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl noted the other night how much fun it was to prepare for VCU, a team that does a lot of interesting things. Last night, Pearl said the same thing about Villanova, how well coached they are and the intriquing things they do offensively. Maybe Pearl is just happy to be breaking down film and game planning in staff meetings, after what has transpired off the court. On the other hand Pearl probably does truthfully admire how his two opponents in New York play. Pearl did note, "Villanova is about ball screens. They do that extremely well." Tennessee was ready for the ball screens and defended them extremely well.
The other night thought Wright made a good move zoning a little each half. Again Tennessee was ready by spreading the floor and creating gaps for penetrations that would up with inside shots or passes to the wing. Overall, Villanova needed to do a better job of closing out on weak side perimeter shooters.
In Wright's estimation the Tennessee defense not only suffocated the guards but negated any chances for easy baskets. Final count saw the Vols with a 9-2 edge in transition scoring.
As tough as Tennessee's defense was, the Wildcats did not turn the ball over. They had 13 turnovers but were under 20% for the TO rate.
Mouphtaou Yarou was a well deserved All-Tournament choice for the Wildcats. Yarou scored 15 points and added 5 rebounds. His continued contributions will be needed as the weeks go on.
Impressed with Dominic Cheek. He had a 10 point 6 rebound game and showed the versatility to mix it up inside or work on the perimeter.
The Breakdown by Halves and a Few Comments
The first half was a defensive tug-of-war, while the second half was an offensive show. Tennessee won both.
1. Villanova lost the battle of the boards, a crucial element if the shots are not dropping.
2. The possessions/shots were again taken largely by the backcourt, with Wayns accounting for nearly 42% of the possessions and 30% of the shots. Fisher's possession/shot split was 31/23. Both had excruiciatingly low conversion efficiency. Wayns' eFG% was 27.3%, while Fisher's was 10.0% (yeah, that's not a typo, it was that low). Tennessee took these two right out of the game.
3. Wayns' assist rate was stronger than Fisher's, but the sophomore played a low percentage of minutes (as did Fisher). First half fouls, two apiece, kept Wayns off the floor for nearly half of the available minutes. Neither finished the game.
4. The balance of the squad, Yarou, Stokes, Pena and Sutton were efficient offensively, but all, Stokes excepted, were reduced to "Role Player" status.