Ranked Teams, Part 2
#18 Louisville was the second consecutive Top 25 ranked opponent to visit Villanova this week and the third this season. Unlike Temple and Cincinnati, Villanova hosted the 'Ville at the Wells Fargo Center, the Wildcats' home away from home, in Philadelphia. A Different location but same result, as Villanova won going away 88-74 before nearly 13,200 fans who braved the bone chilling 20 degree temperatures and mid-week work schedule to catch the game.
Freshman Gorgui Dieng won the opening tip, and that was the last contested ball versus Villanova's sophomore center Mouphtaou Yarou, that the freshman won. Though it took a half to bring the Louisville back court under control -- collectively Peyton Siva, (especially both) Chris Smith and Preston Knowles torched the 'Cats for 36 of Louisville's points on 14-26 (8-12 3FGs, 6-10 2FGS) shooting in the first half -- Villanova began to connect consistently from the outside during the second half, which in turn opened up low post where Yarou and senior Antonio Pena delivered a series of body blows in the form of dunks from entry passes and put backs from offensive rebounds. Villanova's diversified offensive approach helped to build a double digit lead the Cardinals could only nibble at, but not erase.
The Nova Blog posted their recap -- "post game: Villanova 88 vs. Louisville 74", while VUHoops.com recapped the game with player stats, a poll for player grades and a Live Blog. From the other side of the ball, Card Chronicle has a post/recap with a red perspective. From the ink media, Louisville beat writer, Rick Bozich, posted a game recap with a Cardinal perspective. The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "Wildcats Rip Off Another Win...", led off with the balanced, inside - outside attack Villanova used to break down Louisville. The breakdown by halves...
|Opponent:||University of Louisville|
Green highlighting identifies the good elements of Villanova's game yesterday, while red highlighting identifies elements the are below the levels the team has played to to date. Pace was slightly (one possession) higher than projected by Ken Pomeroy, and the margin was higher, but within each team's comfort zone...
Note the yellow highlighted (in table above) scoring distribution for Louisville. Hitting 50% of their 2s and 53% of their 3s the Cardinals got most of their points (58%) from beyond the arc but scored a point less than Villanova in the first half. When the Cards cooled off, hit only 40% of their 3s (still a very strong number) and 38.1% of their 2s, the point distribution shifted (note the yellow highlight under the 2nd half), and the Cardinals were outscored by 13. Rebounding was the difference.
Three Things Villanova Fans Are Smiling About Today...
1. Did I mention rebounding? -- This was a crucial element for the win over Louisville. Normally the Wildcats dominate. In this matchup Pomeroy's gameplan suggested it would be key to beating Louisville. And three Wildcats -- Yarou (11), Corey Fisher (8 -- not a typo, it was Fish) and Isaiah Armwood (7) -- worked to insure that if the Cardinals missed they would not get a second chance. Those three combined to outrebound the Louisville squad.
2. Shot and scoring distribution -- Four designated front court players, James Bell, Isaiah Armwood, Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou (and Maurice Sutton who logged no minutes in this game) took about 95% of the allocated "front court" minutes and 41.4% of the available shots. That is 41% of the shots allocated to 40% of the minutes. In reality, the four front court players logged 95% of the available time (the staff was running a bit of four guard again...), so the time/shot allocation was very close, which suggests a close-to-even distribution of the offense between the front and back court players. Four Villanova players scored double digit point, led by senior wing Corey Stokes whose 23 points came on a very efficient 5-9 shooting from the field and 9-9 from the line. Stokes' eFG% was 77.8% and measured with his free throws, his PPWS, 1.73 suggests he did more than run off screens in a catch and shoot system, but also took it to the rim when the opportunities presented. The shooting/scoring balance was evident in the second half when on more than a few possessions, Louisville left the low post naked and Nova bigs Armwood and Yarou were able to score virtually uncontested when the guards hit them with entry passes.
3. Louisville turnovers -- The first half pace was pretty frenetic, had 37.4 held for the second half, the two teams would have had 74 possessions apiece. As it was it "settled" down to about 73 possessions. While "shootout" might be the best adjective to describe that half ("They sliced us..." -- Coach Wright on the Cardinal 1st half attack), the Wildcats did force a 24% turnover rate on the Cardinals, higher than their season-long 19% rate. The 'Cats lost an appalling 29.4% of their possessions in that half, they did manage to keep the Cards' turnover rate above their season-long rate for the second half as well.
Three Grains of Salt...
1. Are We There Yet? -- when reminded for the 4th consecutive post game presser that he had said the team was "not yet" playing like a top 10 team (overrated...), and then prompted to assess the progress, Villanova's Coach opined that the team "...can better -- and I mean that in a good way...". He liked much of what he saw and thought they played . Coach Pitino characterized Villanova as "one of the better teams" in the country.
2. The Louisville Front Court is...not good. Accolades to the Villanova front court should be tempered with the reality that the Cardinals' front court is largely a patchwork of bigs whose best days lie either before or behind them, anytime but the present. Pitino used George Goode and Terrence Jennings in a rotation with starters Gorgui Dieng and Stephan Van Tresse, the four played 74 of the 80 front court minutes, scoring 13 points (collectively) on 5-13 shooting from the field and 3-3 from the line. They collected 11 (6-5-11) rebounds, three assists, five turnovers, four blocks and five steals. Injuries to Rakeem Buckles and Jarred Swopshire, coupled with late clearance of Dieng, left the door wide open for Jennings and Goode, yet Pitino passed over the juniors to tab the sophomore rotation player and the late-arriving freshman. Coach Pitino's reputation for candor (and a history of laying into underperforming members of his squad) seemed at odds with his response to a question about his front court's inexperience -- "I don't think that's the problem...we are a good team...that ran into one of the better teams in the country". The Louisville mentor seemed to reach for the carrot rather than the stick as the motivator for this front court contingent. Villanova's good showing was very encouragining, but Louisville's contingent is not comparable to the front courts of Rutgers, USF or Cincinnati. Or some of those they will face going forward -- Pitt, Syracuse, Connecticut or St. John's for example.
3. Corey Stokes strained his left hamstring in Sunday's game against Cincinnati. He received treatment and has continued to play. Hopefully Villanova's leading scorer who has emerged as one of the senior leaders the staff has relied on heavily this season will have time going forward for it to heal completely.
Villanova runs its record to 15-1, 4-0 in conference play. Louisville's record is 13-3 overall, and 2-1 in conference play.