Winning on the Road
After building a 19-10 lead nine and a half minutes into the first half, someone must have opened the north-facing door in the Sun Dome, because over the next eight minutes Villanova went cold (and sloppy), shooting ?-?, committing two turnovers and five fouls, which graciously allowed the South Florida Bulls to charge back into the game. The hometeam retook the lead (by one, 28-27) and held it for a single possession, returning it 36 seconds later when point guard Maalik Wayns hit both ends of a one-and-one after a Hugh Robertson foul put South Florida over the limit. Having secured the lead again, the Wildcats were careful not to relinquish it again. Though the Bulls, trailing by five (35-30) at the half, cut the Wildcats' lead to three or less four times in the first 10 minutes of the second half, two consecutive three pointers by senior Corey Stokes allowed the 'Cats to push their edge back out to nine, and sat on that double digit cushion through the end of the game.
The Nova Blog appears to have been first to press with "post game: Villanova 83 vs. South Florida 71", their game recap. VUHoops.com posted a recap with player's boxes, and a poll for player grades (another "Wisdom of Crowds" experiment Ed?). From the ink media, USF beat writer, Greg Auman, posted a game recap with a USF perspective. The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 7 Villanova Defeats...", cited Corey Stokes, Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns for their scoring. The breakdown by halves...
|Opponent:||University of South Florida|
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 the first stat to catch my eye. 31 possessions in the first half makes for a very, very deliberate game, within the range of the Penn (61.6) and Saint Joseph's (62.7) games played earlier this season. Like the Penn game, the two teams last night played both halves at about the same tempo. Lower possession games is consistent with the Bulls' style of play, so the deliberate pace was most likely not a strategy employed by Coach Stan Heath specifically for Villanova, an important factor when considering the offensive and defensive stats.
The most critical numbers -- efficient field goals (eFG%) and lack of turnovers (TO%) -- translated into the efficient conversion of possessions into points, but were partially negated by blocked field goal attempts (8.3%) and steals (9.4%). Rebounding at both ends of the court (18.2% & 44.4%) and fouls (at least in the first half) impacted Villanova's defensive efforts more than their offense. Though 1.11 points per possession might seem low relative to earlier winning efforts, consider it came on the road and coupled with an impressive (for the Big East and the road) 0.96 points per possession on defense (95.5 "defensive rating" from the table -- the ratings compute as points per possession per 100 possessions).
Villanova's field goal conversion rates, for two pointers and three pointers, were outstanding for both halves, one of the better set of numbers posted this game. Consistent with a number of Villanova games (and I suspect quite a few D1 games), the second defense suffered because the Wildcats' offense was outstanding. Fans who feel this was the team's best game to date (or at least since Tennessee?) are most likely reacting to the impact of the second half offensive juggernaut. Compare Villanova's field goal conversion rates (2FG% and 3FG%) with the team's field goal efficiency (eFG% at top). Hitting 75% of one's 3 pointer attempts can make an offense look bullet-proof. South Florida's team profile (per Ken Pomeroy) does not show a weakness on three point defense (nor are the Bulls particularly bad at defending inside the arc for that matter). That both Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek hit every one of their three point attempts (granted both are extremely talented...but no misses?) suggests, the Bulls' game plan may have underestimated the abilities of those two Nova wings. And they punished the Bulls with off the charts field goal efficiencies (see below).
Notes & Observations
1. The rotations appears to be largely set for conference play -- the starting line-up (Wayns, Fish, Stokes, Pena and Yarou) has not changed since game #01. The next four off the bench (Cheek, Armwood, Sutton and Bell) have been solid for the last 2-4 games. Like the Rutgers game, this one appeared under control by the mid-point of the second half, so the staff re-allocated the larger portion of "starter-level" minutes to the four players in the deeper part of the rotation. That is problably a better approach than emptying the bench.
2. Mouphtaou Yarou appears to have struggled a bit, though he was not in foul trouble, so the staff opted to to with a quicker and more mobile front court. Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood each logged a larger chunk of time than they usually get. Cheek logged 22 minutes while Armwood was north of 16 minutes, higher than their average-to-date.
3. Corey Stokes led the team in scoring for the third consecutive game, posting 22 points on 6-8 (5-5, 1-3) and 5-5 shooting. The senior wing shot an off the charts 106.3% eFG%, with a 2.12 PPWS. Corey S. combined with Fish to dominate the Villanova offense.
4. Dominic Cheek posted 17 points on 6-6 (4-4 and 2-2) and 1-2 shooting. The sophomore wing actually topped Stokes for efficient converion with an outrageous 133.3% eFG% (see below) and 2.45 PPWS. Cheek formed the third leg in the offense, taking just under 23% (22.7% -- see table below) of the availble shots when he was on the court.
5. While the back court, Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns continued to post double digit scoring (12 and 16 points respectively -- see table for Shot%, eFG% and PPWS), the most significant contribution was assists -- the two headed point guard attack dished 15 dimes against five turnovers.
Some individual efficiency stats...
Compare possessions (Poss%), shot rates (Shot%), assist rate (Ast%) and eFG%/PPWS for Wayns, Fisher and Stokes. Each made significant contributions in the Sun Dome, but note how Wayns cut back on his shot rate -- this has been a trend over the past 2-3 games -- and "shifted" over to setting up teammates (Ast%). Stokes did not end many possessions, but when he did it was with a shot. Fisher continues to draw a lot of attention from the offense (note his shot and possession rates), while he is still not nearly as efficient as he was last season, he has adjusted to bring others into the offense (note his assist rate).
Villanova returns to the Pavilion where they will host Cincinnati in a noon game Sunday. I will host a live blog from the Pavilion for Rush the Court, so if you cannot make the game, tune in for the TV broadcast and plug Rush the Court's URL into your browser and join in the discussion.