The Return of Corey Stokes
The guard who could not miss Saturday could not make on Monday. The point guard who twisted and turned defenders in Chicago could not untwist his back for the second half in Philadelphia. The freshman who bombed Seton Hall into submission in a game last week was 0'fer in this game this week. The Coach talked about "finding ways, during a time when we're not making shot, to win...", and Monday night, the Wildcats did not. Senior wing Corey Stokes returned with a bang, dropping 24 points on the Orange before 18,500 (or so) fans in the Wells Fargo Center, but that was not enough to turn the result, as the Wildcats fell 65-69 on Senior Night.
The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 15 Villanova Falls Short Against No. 17...69-64", lead with Corey Stokes' return, and the return of the "Philadelphia Kids"...Syracuse's Philadelphia Kids. Scoop Jardine and Rick Jackson combined for 38 points before their friends and relatives (and a healthy contingent of Syracuse fans), while Dion Waiters sealed the Wildcats' doom with free throws at the end of the game. The breakdown by halves...
Keys to Winning
The solidifies the notion that offensive shot efficiency is the single most crucial factor to winning or losing for Villanova. The 'Cats can survive a bad night of turnovers; they can overcome not getting to the line; they can survive being outrebounded...but when the shots do not drop they have yet to find or develop a Plan B. A 19.2% conversion rate for three pointers is terrible -- hit an abysmal 30% and they win by three. Free throw shooting also failed Monday night as the 'Cats hit an uncharacteristically low 63% of their attempts. Those cursing the free throw woes should know that even had the 'Cats shot to their pregame average (76.9%) they still would have lost by two.
The Wildcats' tempo took a jump with this game, consistent with Syracuse games of the past. Though Coach Wright had the guards walk the ball up the floor, the guards clearly know how to pick Syracuse's 2-3 zone apart. A post game question to Coach Boeheim had the Orange coach admit he decided to extend the perimeter of the zone to "...knock their shooters off their spots...". Plan B, to pass to Antonio Pena at the free throw line where the power forward would have the triple option of taking his shot, kicking back out to a shooter off the screen or passing into the low post to a flashing Isaiah Armwood, found limited success as the low post pass was often mistimed. Additional games and practice should have that play working.
Records, Next Up...
Villanova's records stand at 21-7 overall and 9-6 in conference play. The Wildcats have three more games in their season-ending gauntlet, St. John's (H) up next Saturday, followed by two road games, at Notre Dame (A) and Pittsburgh (A). The Orange records stand at 23-6 and 10-6 in conference play. Syracuse will visit Georgetown, then go home to host DePaul to close the regular season.
Maalik Wayns twisted his back during first half action and played about 16 minutes before the intermission. He returned, but logged only eight minutes additional in the second half. No word on whether this is day-to-day.