?#!?#%!! Not Again...
For the third consecutive game the outcome came down to the last shot. And twice in those three games the ball was in the hands of the opponent. The nightmare scenario was unfolding as Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall's latest 2,000 point scorer had the ball with 0:11 on the clock and 25 points already banked from this game. Hazell-led teams had never beaten the Wildcats, and this was the best chance in his four seasons. Hazell, who had 2,005 points entering the game, will probably almost certainly pass Greg Tynes (1974-78) to become the #3 scorer in Pirate history. But his total stopped at 25 tonight as his last three point attempt careened off the rim and into Dominic Cheek's eager grasp. 60-57 Villanova in a game that was among the strangest of this already strange season. The two teams played the 100th game in a shared tradition that goes back to 1921. Villanova may hold a 63-37 edge, but three of the last four meetings have come down to the last possession.
The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 15 Villanova Beats Seton Hall, 60-57", lead with freshman James Bell's outstanding shot accuracy, Villanova's appalling turnover spree and the series' century mark. The breakdown by halves...
|Opponent:||Seton Hall University|
Keys to Winning
If your eFG% 56.1% you should win, right? If your opponent's eFG% is 36.1%, you should win by double digits. If you snag 36.4% of your misses while you limit your opponent to 27.5% of his misses you should be looking at a +15 margin of victory. The three point winning margin can be attributed nearly exclusively to a 34.9% turnover rate. Over 1 in 3 Villanova possessions ended in a turnover. Seton Hall turned the ball over on just over 1 in 10 of their possessions. And despite their inability to consistently convert field goal attempts and their inability to rebound effectively against the Wildcats, this game hung on a Jeremy Hazell three point attempt with 0:0.6 seconds left. The Pirates had 17 more field goal attempts (58 to 41) than the Wildcats (twice as many three point attempts 26-13) even though Nova limited the Hall's second chance opportunities.
"It was another ugly game...Pitt was an ugly game...and this one was too" Coach Wright's voice trailed off at the end of his thought. There was a lot to like from the game, but the turnover rate virtually negated strong defensive rebounding numbers (the Hall is ranked #13 in the conference for offensive rebounding rate at 30.7%; Villanova held them to 3% less), strong shot efficiency and excellent shot defense and took the game to the last possession and shot. "Too many three point attempts" were Coach Willard's last words in his unusually brief and subdued post game presser. "What else can he say?" shrugged a writer near me "...at this point in the season he has covered everything..."
The Wildcats' tempo continues to decline as Nova faced another 2-3 zone defense. For the fourth consecutive game Villanova has played for fewer than the conference average of 65.4 possessions. For this game the 'Cats came in at 63.1 possessions, below their own conference average of 65.5 possessions. The teams were on track for a 60 possession game going into the half, but consistent with previous games, the pace increased in the second half.
With 0:39 on the clock and four fouls apiece on Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns, the staff went to a "rebound & defense/penetrate & free throw shooter" rotation, subbing Fisher and Wayns out for Maurice Sutton and Isaiah Armwood. Dominic Cheek played the point on five man team that consisted of Pena, Cheek, Sutton, Armwood and freshman James Bell. The freshman, who scored a career-high 21 points on an extraordinarily efficient 7-9 (4-6, 3-3) and 3-3 from the line, paced the Wildcats for the first time in his career. Bell's eFG% was 100% with a PPWS of 2.04. "We stopped Fisher and Wayns, but everyone on that team can score..." replied Coach Willard to a question about Bell's performance.
Bell, born in Plainfield (NJ), grew up in Florida. A few reports speculated on how a Plainfield High School team with a back court of (Villanova-bound) Ty Johnson, (red shirting this season in Pittsburgh) Isaiah Epps and Bell might have fared in NJHSAA play..."He was a sophomore (in high school)...(and) approached us and said 'I want to play for you'..." Coach Wright described how Villanova's recruitment of Bell opened. "We said 'ok, but we have to see you play before we decide (whether to offer a scholarhip)..." "Coach! So what happened?" "We saw him play the next day and offered..."
Ray Floriani, at the game, will add a post later.
Records, Next Up...
Villanova's records stand at 20-6 overall and 8-5 in conference play. The Wildcats have run their string of consecutive 20 (or more) win season to seven, going back to 2004-05. The Pirates records stand at 11-15 and 5-9 in conference play. Seton Hall hits the road for a swing through the Midwest, taking in Marquette next Saturday, and Notre Dame the Saturday following (2/26). Villanova heads West too, out to Chicago to play DePaul on Saturday, then back to Philadelphia to close out the season series with Syracuse on President's Day.
Corey Stokes did not play, and should per Coach Wright's comments post game, be inactive for two weeks. The objective of the rest is to have him healthy and 100% for the balance of the his playing career at Villanova...most likely the last few games of the season. When the "two week" clock started however, was somewhat ambiguous. When asked if Stokes would be available for the Syracuse game (2/21), Coach Wright replied "...that would be the earliest...". The certainty -- Stokes will not play at DePaul Saturday.