The #13 Villanova Wildcats must take on West Virginia on Friday night, February 13 - a date which, for superstitious reasons, has been perceived as unlucky. The confluence of a pair of 13s could be viewed as a bad omen.Luck in sports, by definition, is double-edged. For the most part, good luck for one side is bad luck for the other. Regrettably, playing on Friday the 13th - while being ranked #13, no less - turned out to be extremely unlucky for the Wildcats. (Conversely, it turned out to be extraordinarily lucky for the Mountaineers. Perhaps it was because they weren't ranked #13, as well as having to play on the date.) All of the justifiable (and non-superstititious) fears about the Morgantown Coliseum - those fears turned out to be extremely well-founded. The #13 Wildcats were annihilated, 93-72, in a game in which they were never genuinely competitive.
Ironically, though, the Wildcats will be gunning for the exact opposite- i.e., a traditionally lucky number. Seven, to be precise - a victory would mean their seventh straight triumph. #13 Villanova will be taking its 8-3 Big East, 20-4 overall record to one of the most difficult homecourts in all of college basketball, the Coliseum in Morgantown.
One silver lining might be that it was a good idea to get rid of all of the bad luck in one game, particularly one in a highly adverse home court, especially when Villanova really didn't need the win all that much. In contrast, West Virginia needed it very badly. The Mountaineers are on the NCAA bubble and wins over ranked teams - particularly on their home floor - are badly needed to improve their case for the Selection Committee.
The Wildcats fell to 8-4 Big East, 20-5 overall. However, their luck this weekend hasn't been all bad, despite the experience in Morgantown. Although they had to wait till today to find out, they actually improved their standing in the AP poll. They advanced from #13 to the less-unlucky #12, despite - just three days earlier - having been thrashed by 21 points on national television to an unranked (albeit, solid and talented) opponent. Perhaps their luck will be better, ranked #12. (There's nowhere to go but up, after Friday.)
Just kidding, of course. The justification for 'Nova's improved standing in the AP poll was their equally decisive defeat of #10 Marquette at the Pavilion earlier in the week, not their dreadful performance at Morgantown on Friday.
There is, of course, the solace that the defeat was not due to bad luck. The Mountaineers simply played far more proficiently than 'Nova. In particular, there was a night for the record books for WVU's Da'Sean Butler, who put up 43 points. Butler's outburst ranks among the highest single-game scoring outputs in the quarter-century-plus of the Big East's existence. West Virginia evened its Big East record at 6-6, and 17-8 overall. In doing so, WVU also immeasurably increased its chances at an NCAA at-large bid.
The two star Wildcats both had disastrous games on the same night (which, as noted earlier, could be viewed as either serendipitous or unfortunate). Scottie Reynolds had one of the worst games of his career on Friday. He finished with a dozen points, but did it on 3-11 shooting. He committed five turnovers (against one assist, one rebound, and no steals), and played only 28 minutes due to foul trouble. Even worse, Reynolds fouled out on an extremely foolish play. He committed a reach-around in pursuit of the Mountaineer who had just picked his pocket for his fifth - and final - turnover of the evening.
Dante Cunningham also was saddled with foul trouble, as he picked up two quick fouls in the beginning of the game and went to the bench till the second half. West Virginia's 52-34 halftime wasn't entirely due to Cunningham's absence, but it certainly was a factor. Although he ended up with just three fouls, Cunningham logged just 25 minutes, finishing with seven points and six boards. He also was just 1-5 from the foul line and committed four turnovers.
In the absence of Cunningham and Reynolds, the two Corys fueled 'Nova's offense, finishing as the top two scorers. Fisher played 31 minutes, scoring 17 points on 6-10 shooting, while adding three rebounds and three assists against just one turnover. Stokes logged 29 minutes, scoring 15 points on 5-10 shooting, including 3-6 from beyond the arc, and also pulled down five rebounds. Antonio Pena played 18 minutes, but had no field goals, no rebounds, and no blocks. (He did go 4-4 from the line and committed only one turnover, in fairness.)
Ironically, the one Wildcat who was questionable at game time, turned out to have one of the best performances. After considerable speculation as to whether he'd play at all, Dwayne Anderson played 19 minutes, finishing with half a dozen points, half a dozen rebounds and a pair of steals, committing only one turnover.
As a team, perhaps the most telling statistic was the fact that 'Nova had 22 field goals - but only five assists. (And 16 turnovers.)
I'll issue my standard criticism of Wright for failing to put Jason Colenda and Frank Tchuisi into a lopsided game prior to the final minute. At garbage time, both Reynolds and Reggie Redding had already fouled out, Anderson was banged up, and West Virginia had an insurmountable lead. It would have been a perfect opportunity for the two practice players to play two or three minutes. Instead, they came in with less than a minute to play and once more, did not even have a chance to take a shot.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the game were the various student signs; the headline of this post came from one student who held up a sign stating:
' (E)ers (S)hock (P)hilly's '(N)ova '
Fortunately, the Wildcats have several days to forget their case of triskaidekophobia, as they will be taking on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Thursday at the Pavilion, prior to which the Senior Night festivities will be observed, since the students will be on spring break during the actual final home game in March.
A full preview for the game will be coming up. In the meantime, take a look at what the other talented Villanova bloggers had to say about the Friday the 13th disaster:
Various Viewpoints: Other VU Sites' Recaps of the Villanova/West Virginia Game
Pete at Let's Go 'Nova - " 'Nova Fails Road Test at WVU"
Chris at I Bleed Blue and White - "Post-Game: West Virginia 93, Villanova 72"
greyCat at Villanova By the Numbers - "West Virginia Post-Game - Ouch!"
VUHoops.com - 'The Butler Did It - Mountaineers Top 'Nova"
Tim at 'Nova News - "Unlucky Night for #13 'Nova on Friday the 13th"
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