That collective snicker heard out of the Nova Nation Monday night when the sports ticker ran the Temple/Penn score (Temple 73-67 in overtime), the favor was returned Tuesday when Villanova needed an extra five minutes to beat La Salle, 76-69, as the two Philadelphia schools opened the Big 5 portion of their seasons. It was not a pretty game, marred by a combined 33 turnovers (20 committed by the Wildcats), 41 fouls (30 committed by La Salle) and sub 40% shooting from the field (Villanova 35.2%, La Salle 37.1%). Down by 10 at the 1:17 mark of the first half, the Wildcats used the next 2:45 for an 11-0 run to take their second lead of the game, 32-31 at the 18:31 mark of the second half. The last 18 minutes of regulation saw seven lead changes and six ties, as the longtime rivals built leads of up to five points as the half wound down. La Salle's senior wing Earl Pettis tied the game at 50 with a three point conversion at the 6:30 mark of regulation, and the Explorers took the lead on their next possession (a layup by sophomore guard Sam Mills) and used the next 5:08 to build a five point lead (61-56). With 1:22 left the Wildcats mounted one last offensive rush. Maalik Wayns hit a long jumper to bring the 'Cats to within two (59-61), then Wayns fouled to force an inbound play. Freshman guard Darrun Hilliard picked off Earl Pettis' inbound pass to Taylor Dunn, bolted to the bucket for the layup that knotted the game, for the eighth time, at 61, with less than a minute in the half. Hilliard stepped up to block a Taylor Dunn jumper, the deflection going to junior wing Dom Cheek, who passed to Wayns for a runout. Wayns missed the layup and the teams went into overtime. The Wildcats controlled the game virtually from the overtime tip-off, converting 2-2 at the free throw line (sophomore James Bell) on their second overtime possession. The Explorers tied once (at 63) at the 2:45 mark of overtime, but could do no more as the 'Cats closed out the period with a 13-6 run.
The University site posted their AP wire story. The official website also posted the boxscore, thank heaven. The breakdown by halves
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas
If I highlighted the good numbers with green and the disappointing numbers with red, the table above would take on the look of a Christmas card (actually a Valentine's Day card, not a whole lot of good news here), but instead I will use a Christmas-neutral yellow to highlight the four factors numbers that were critical to shaping the outcome. Converting shots at a 38.9% clip is a recipe for a loss, especially when your opponent is converting at a rate 4% greater (42.9%). Not until the overtime period, when Dr. Giannini's squad was most likely exhausted (three Explorers logged more than 40 minutes to Villanova's one), did Villanova convert at a 50% efficiency. Combined with a 25.5% turnover rate makes the win almost impossible. How did the 'Cats counter? They dominated the boards. Dominated might be an understatement, as the Villanova outrebounded La Salle by 15 (50-35). Offensively, the 'Cats grabbed 37.5% of their own misses, providing them with 15 more scoring opportunities. Defensively, Villanova grabbed nearly 78% of La Salle misses -- including a very impressive 100% defensive rebounding rate in the first half -- denying the Explorers the chance to "net out" Villanova's scoring advantage. Though La Salle took 16 more field goal attempts, Villanova held a 41-11 free throw attempt edge on 30 La Salle personal fouls. Freshman center Steve Zack fouled out in 18 minutes, while freshman starting forward, Jerrell Wright logged four fouls in 12 minutes of play. In all one Explorer (Zack) was DQ'd, while four others (Wright, plus Mills, Dunn and senior forward Devon White) played with four fouls. The 'Cats held a 34-9 margin in converted free throws, enough for the win.
Notes & Observations
1. The staff continues to show a four guard staring lineup, using Wayns at the point with Bell playing the "#4" and Hilliard and Cheek rotating between the #2 and the #3. Versus Monmouth Hilliard received a fairly short run, but versus La Salle the freshman logged an upper classman-like 34 minutes. Both the rotation was deeper (11 players to 10 used by Dr. Giannini) and the time more evenly distributed (one player with >40 minutes vs. three for La Salle) than the Explorers, but the regular rotation is clearly not carved in stone. Junior foward Maurice Sutton, an afterthought for the European Tour and Monmouth game (he logged five minutes in that 36 point romp last Friday) caught four very important overtime minutes versus La Salle. The junior was credited with a blocked shot and two defensive rebounds during his run. JayVaughn Pinkston picked up another 20 of playing time, while fellow freshman forward/center Markus Kennedy had only 10 minutes of time. Observers have suggested Kennedy is the "more ready" of the two, but the staff apparently likes what they see in Pinkston a bit more.
2. Among the starters, Wayns (36% Shot%, 36.3% Poss%) and Bell (26.3% Shot%, 27.7% Poss%) were the offensive engines. Neither was efficient, converting their shots at 37.5% and 41.7% respectively. Both however, redeemed themselves at the free throw line, using their converted free throws (Wayns was 10-10; Bell 5-6) to push their PPWS (points per weighted shot) above the 1.00 threshold. For Wayns, despite his horrific 5-16 shooting (though he did hit a crucial three point attempt at the 1:10 mark of regulation to cut La Salle's lead to a managable two), managed a number of heady plays at crunch time. He fouled with under 45 seconds left after La Salle broke Villanova's press. With fouls to give it forced an inbound play, thus setting the table for Hilliard's end-game heroics.
3. Mouphtaou Yarou and Cheek among the starters, along with Pinkston from the rotation, form a second/third option for scoring. Among the first/second/third options, only Yarou with a 57.1% eFG%, was efficient. Given Yarou's 19.4% Shot Rate, the guards will have to find him more often if the big is to have an impact on offense. Hilliard, with a 66.7% eFG%, was nearly invisible (statistically) on offense. His crucial conversion, a tying layup with under a minute to play, was the most obvious of several timely conversions.
4. Offensive boards came complements of Yarou (11.3%) and Kennedy (22.5% on limited minutes). Bell (8.9%) and Cheek (8.2%) are following that tradition of rebounding Villanova guards. On the defensive boards, again Yarou (31.2%) led the way with Wayns(!) following (18.7%), Pinkston (15.0%), Cheek (12.2%), Kennedy (10.0%) and Sutton (28.6% -- very limited minutes). The Explorers lack a dominant rebounder; Zack and Williams are not experienced enough yet.
Big 5 Notes
1. Dr. Giannini has never beaten Villanova, going 0-8 in his tenure at La Salle. Coach Wright is 10-1 versus La Salle in his 11 year run at Villanova.
2. As part of the Big 5 series dating back to 1955, Villanova holds a 30-23 edge over La Salle.