On the Other Hand
In the 78-59 blowout Villanova handed Delaware in late December of last season, a few Blue Hens got a bit chippy at the end. Playing before a mellow crowd in the undersold Wells Fargo Center did not provide the electricity usually associated with Philadelphia's downtown pro venue. Maybe it was the disappointment or maybe it was the fact that the game was uncompetitive virtually from the tip-off, but the Blue Hens, staff and players were unhappy with the experience and made no effort to hide it. This season the game was completely different. The game was scheduled earlier (by a month), the venue a more intimate Pavilion on Villanova's campus and the contest much, much closer. The Hens had a year to focus their frustration and the results showed last night as Delaware still lost by double digits, 79-69, but went down fighting (figuratively speaking), holding the margin to the 8-10 range from the 35:00 mark in. Blue Hen guard Devon Saddler recorded the game-high 27 points on 10-26 (3-10, 7-16) shooting from the court and 2-4 from the line. 'Cat guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek notched 21 points apiece, team-high for the host.
The Wildcats took the first 5:52 to jump out to a 14-5 lead, in a tease that hinted at another 20+ win. The flow ground to a halt for the next 5:52 however, as the Blue Hens outscored Nova by a 4-1 margin on an ugly sequence that featured four points on eight possessions by Delaware and one point on seven possessions by Villanova. Though the 'Cats took a 14 point edge into the half-time break, the margin was based on a Villanova 8-3 run in the last 2:21 of the half. The second half featured a 16-6 Delaware run in the first 4:34, and while the two teams did not fall into another high-possession low-scoring funk, the Wildcats were not able to sustain a scoring run that could create the separation necessary to demoralize the Blue Hens. The teams hovered at the ten point margin for much of the last three minutes of play.
My last paragraphs echo the disappointment registered by the bloggers over at VUHoops.com and The Nova Blog, both of whom felt the winning margin should have been greater than 10 points. We should probably shut up; no point in giving Coach Monte Ross more bulletin board material. The University site posted their AP wire story. The official boxscore indicates that Throw Your V's Up blog can tally this one in the 0>10 "Home" column. The blog features an excellent breakdown on how the Wildcats performed in close games last season. The breakdown by halves
Half Time Adjustments
Villanova's first half can be traced to efficient shot (eFG% ) conversion, and tight defense. Note Delaware's 37.9% eFG% (nerves?) combined with low offensive rebounding (30%) and high turnover rate (24%). The Hens had few shot opportunities, and when they shot they neither converted nor did they get many second chances. If Villanova was not as dominant as they were versus Monmouth, they nevertheless converted well, rebounded their misses and did not turn the ball over much. Notice the second half collapse of Villanova's defense. The Blue Hens managed to score 45 points on just over 32 possessions. Last season that would have killed Villanova.
Notes & Observations
1. The staff started four guards for the fourth straight game (last exhibition plus three regular season games), using Wayns at the point with Bell playing the "#4" and Darrun Hilliard along with Dominic Cheek rotating between the #2 and the #3. Hilliard logged 27 minutes last night, down slightly from the tighter La Salle game. The staff shows a lot of confidence in the freshman, keeping him in the game when the score is closer. A total of 10 players were used, alloted playing time ranging from three minutes (freshman Ty Johnson) up to 36 minutes (Wayns). The three junior starters logged an average of 33.3 minutes apiece, as opposed to the other seven players who average 14.3 minutes apiece...remember Hilliard got 24 of those minutes, while freshman JayVaughn Pinkston played for another 19 minutes.
2. Among the junior starters, Yarou stepped into the "offensive engine" role, taking over 30% of the possessions and 33% of the shots in a very un "Guard U"-like performance. Wayns stepped back and worked on setting up the team a bit more (28% assist rate) while taking about 28% of the possessions and 24% of the shots. His efficiency exploded. Cheek (24% Shot%, 23% Poss%) logged numbers consistent with prior games, again suggesting his role will grow this season and he responded with another efficient scoring night (62.5% eFG%). Yarou was not as efficient, most likely due to turnovers (he had two). Pinkston, the other front court option, had a night of growing pains, going 0-6 from the field with two turnovers.
3. Rebounding was an issue for the first time this season as the 'Cats were outrebounded, 34-36, by the Hens. Note the table above, the big letdown was in the second half, where Villanova allowed Delaware to grab 50% of the Blue Hen misses, about 17% more than the Division I average, and 20% more than usual for Villanova.