Thursday, February 26, 2009

DePaul Post Game: Old Reliables

On a night when the DePaul Blue Demons decided to play their best game of the season, the Wildcats fell back on their reliable trio of Scottie Reynolds, Dante Cunningham and Corey Fisher to survive the trap game. If the staff was concerned about a Rutgers-level post Syracuse letdown on Wednesday night in Chicago, the 1st half brought no comfort. After absorbing the "home team haymaker", the 'Cats climbed back into it and took a 5 point lead with about 8 minutes to play. The Demons launched a second haymaker, taking a 21-8 run to close out the 1st half with an 8 point lead. There were one or two items to go over in the locker room during the break. The Wildcats had clamped down on Dar Tucker and were controlling (kind of...) Will Walker out on the wing. But DePaul's talented big man, Mac Koshwal had rung up a double-double with half a game still to play. No doubt the staff "helped" the team focus for the 2nd half. The 'Cats erased the scoring differential and (again) pushed ahead to a 12 point lead with 6½ to go in the game. The scoring see-sawed just long enough to make the Demon's final push very difficult indeed. They cut the Wildcat's edge back to 2 by the 2:47 mark but, the staff having burned through their timeouts to slow Nova's momentum earlier in the half, they could not pause to implement a closing minutes strategy. They continued to hoist 3s when 2s would have sufficed. Fouling to force change of possession meant that Scottie, Dante and Reggie had chances to pad their numbers while giving the Demons a straight arm.

The Official website posted an AP wire story that credits a 2nd half run for the win, and the official box score, but regrettably, no post game notes from Mike Sheridan. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Deja VU...
I did not spill the red paint on my halves table. That half is waht a trap game looks like (except it would run across the offensive numbers of both halves). It was not worse because a few of the defensive numbers were pretty good. Note that Villanova and DePaul were about a percentage point apart on field goal efficiency in the 1st half, but the commentators (and citizens of the Nova Nation?) thought DePaul had a good 1st half, much better than Villanova. Indeed the Demons had an 8 point lead, but shooting efficiency was very close. The difference was Villanova turned the ball over more (the 'Cats lost over 1 in 5 possessions) and they did not get many 2nd chance opportunities. DePaul by contrast turned the ball over less (better than their season average) and rebounded (much) better under their basket. The Demons are a very average (for D1) offensive rebounding team, but Wednesday night in that 1st half they ran with the better half of the Big East. The shooting percentages for each team each half (2FG%/3FG%/FT%) confirm that Nova shot very poorly but defended the Demons well. If the 'Cats post offensive numbers like this next week against the Irish (also on the road), they will be down by 20 at the half. Nova's 2nd half offensive numbers were much better (as relfected by the green), but consistent with the "first half defense, second half offense" pattern, DePaul's offense was probably the best since they played Notre Dame. Revisiting the preview, Villanova did shoot to their eFG% and did hold DePaul to (just above) their eFG%. But DePaul really stepped up under Villanova's basket, producing the kind of rebounding difference that undoubtedly helped keep the game very close.

1. Dar Tucker finished with 16 points on the night, a fantastic defensive effort by the Wildcats. Tucker was 1-11 from beyond the arc, his lone long bomb coming in the (literally) last second of the game. Mac Koshwal shredded Nova's inside defense, notching a double-double before the intermission. Koshwal recorded another 7 points with 4 rebounds in the 2nd half; a needed improvement at the half.
2. Demon wing Will Walker scored 23 points on 7-16 (6-11, 1-5) and 3-4 shooting. Walker was consigned to the deep bench last season but has emerged as a legitimate 3rd option on offense. The Demons assisted on 50% of their FGMs, up slightly over their season-long assist rate. A point guard/floor general to divvy up the FGAs would do wonders for that team.
3. Cunningham (30.5), Reynolds (25.0) and Fisher (24.2) shouldered the offense, all three converting efficiently for the game. Cunningham awakened from a quiet 1st half (2-4, 0-0) to post some prolific numbers (5-9, 4-4) in the 2nd half.
4. Reggie Redding played a good part of the game (35 minutes) and, in a game where Shane Clark was largely neutralized by 4 fouls, chipped in points and rebounds as a 4th option on offense. Redding led the team in assists (5) for the second straight game.
5. Memorable plays included Scottie's "seeing eye" run through the lane to score a layup in the 2nd half, and Fish's bullet pass to Antonio Pena for Pena's layup, also in the second half. Corey was out near the 3 point line, crowded by a Demon when he leaped with a form that looked as if it was a 3FGA. At the top of his arc he changed the trajectory to put a bullet right into Pena's outstretched hands. Pena turned and dropped the ball over the edge of the basket as Koshwal threw his arms out to deflect Pena's bucket. Score Antonio, foul Koshwal. Beautiful recognition by Fisher.

Ref Notes
John Cahill, Jeff Clark and Brian O'Connell officiated a relatively mild game, whistling 32 fouls between the two teams. The 'Cats were tagged with 14 fouls, just outside (low) of the standard deviation for fouls in away games. No home cooking for the Demons. The 3 have not worked a Villanova game together this season. Wildcats have a 9-0 record when one of these three have been in the crew.

Recaps/Analysis Around the Nova Blogosphere
Let's Go Nova grades the players and play in his post "Villanova sputters to DePaul win".
The team posted a concise recap with links to pictures & MSM articles in "DePaul 72: :74 Villanova".
Chris over at IBBW posted a good recap & analysis (except for the defense Chris...the 'Cats were pretty good on defense in the 1st half). IBBW followed with a link to game highlights on Youtube.
Escape was a favorite adjective on the Nova message boards last night, and Nova News incorporated it into the headline and recap with a long exhale.
Publisher over at Villanova Viewpoint also used the word "escape", but he coupled it with "ignominious" (rather than relief, for example) in his post "Villanova escapes ignominious upset @BE-winless-DePaul, 74-72" (a title which tells the story).
The latest blogger, Fact over at Fact on Villanova blog posted his own finger-wag-at-the-team in "Wow That was Pitiful".

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