Sunday, December 06, 2009

#3 Wildcats Top Terrapins with a Terrible, Attenuated Ending, 95-86, in BB&T Classic

To the Wildcat faithful-

This was only the fourth time that Villanova and Maryland have faced each other, and the first time since 1986.  In previous posts, I discussed the enormous historical importance, of the three previous games in Villanova history - two meetings during the magical 1985 national championship season, and the first game ever at the Pavilion in 1986.

(Above - Testudo, the Maryland Terrapin, was one of the few positive aspects of watching this game.  The Wildcat, for his part, got into the Christmas spirit, sporting a Santa hat, on the floor of the Verizon Center.)

Well, this game will not be joining those, in the Villanova lore.  Most decidedly, in fact.  But, at least, it was for charity.

The Wildcats and Terrapins battled in an ugly, foul-marred, brick-laying contest, with #3 Villanova prevailing, 95-86.  The teams combined to commit an appalling 47 fouls, many coming down the stretch - and ironically, committed by the Wildcats, the team holding the big lead.   At one point in this stretch, Antonio Pena lost his footing at the other end of the court, and was fortunate not to sprain an ankle, likely due to moisture on that spot.

Nor was the ugliness confined to the players on the court.  One spectator had the temerity, audacity, and stupidity, to throw a plastic beer bottle onto the floor, at the 8:13 mark of the second half, due to his annoyance at one of the 23 fouls whistled on Maryland.  Fortunately, the culprit was identified by other fans, and ejected quickly from the Verizon Center.  Naturally, the game was halted for a while, so that the bottle and its contents could be scrubbed off the floor (with Scottie Reynolds helpfully scrubbing, alongside the kid with the mop).   The unseemly episode seemed to epitomize the evening.    It wasn't pretty.

The coaches didn't help, either.  Gary Williams ordered a foul committed, with ten seconds to play and Maryland trailing by seven; Jay Wright called a timeout with 16.5 seconds to play and his team ahead by seven.

But a win's a win.  This was a major test for Villanova; a de facto road game against a quality opponent, a Maryland squad that started the season in the Top 25.  The Wildcats were in control for most of the game, and improved to 8-0 overall.  Maryland fell to 5-3 overall.

What were the keys to the Villanova victory?

The biggest one was offensive rebounding.  The Wildcats clobbered the Terrapins on the glass, outrebounding them 20-7 on the offensive end, and 45-33 overall.  Another was turnovers; the teams combined for 33 turnovers, but Villanova forced 19 of them.

As a result of the extra possessions, generated by offensive rebounds and turnovers, the Wildcats took 75 field goal attempts to Maryland's 53, a stunning disparity, and it was what permitted Villanova to score 95 points and hold a lead throughout the contest.

This was particularly important, on the number of three-point shots.  The Wildcats took an astonishing 39 three-point attempts, and made 16 of them, a 41% success rate.  The 39 three-point attempts are a school record, and the 15 three-point field goals are only one short of the school record.  The old record for attempts was 38, against Minnesota on November 25, 1994.  The record of 16 three-pointers was set against Lehigh on November 27, 2005.

Looking at the Box Score

Reynolds - returning to his native, Washington, DC area - had a team-high 25 points, while playing all but two minutes of the contest.  He did so on 7/18 shooting overall and 3/10 from beyond the arc, and converted eight of 11 free throws.  He also dealt eight assists against five turnovers, and grabbed five rebounds, while staying out of foul trouble (not easy to do, tonight).

Both Coreys also had big nights for the Wildcats.  Fisher had 20 points on 6/13 shooting, including a superb 4/6 from three-point range, and threw in four rebounds, two steals, and two assists against one turnover.

Stokes also delivered significantly for Villanova.  The Bayonne Bomber returned to form, dropping 18 points on 6/13 shooting overall, and 5/11 from beyond the arc, plus three rebounds and three assists, prior to fouling out - he saw 31 minutes. 

Taylor King came off the bench for 13 points. He had a rough shooting night (5/17 from the floor) but made up for it with three triples in eight attempts.  He also threw in half a dozen rebounds and three steals, in his 30 minutes. 

Pena continues to solidify his role as a vital cog in the Villanova frontcourt, as he finished with eight points and 11 rebounds, another solid performance.

Maurice Sutton was able to absorb five fouls, and provide some defense, but he fouled out, having played just 17 minutes.

The Maryland Side of the Box Score

The Terrapins have a high-octane offense, a fact amply attested to by the 86 points, which they did with just 53 shots.  Maryland shot 52.8% from the floor and 47.4% from three-point range, which will win you most games.  They could not overcome, however, their high turnover rate and their inability to keep Villanova from getting second chance points.

Sean Mosley was named the P.F. Chang's Hungriest Player of the Game (a plug for the restaurant chain, which I've decided to include simply because I think the title is a good gimmick), which he undoubtedly deserved.  Mosley torched the Villanova defense for a career-high 26 points on torrid 11/14 shooting from the floor.

Eric Hayes also had a season-high 20 points, on 6/13 shooting, including five triples in nine attempts.

Jordan Williams posted a double-double with 19 points and a dozen rebounds.

However, the Terrapins' best player, Greivis Vasquez, did not have a strong performance, and was another reason for the Villanova victory.  Vasquez was effectively contained by the Wildcats defense.  He finished with a dozen points on 3/9 shooting, and foul trouble limited him to 27 minutes.  He dealt seven assists, but also committed seven turnovers.  Late in the game, his fifth foul came on a Villanova inbounds play, before the whistle even blew, a very poor choice on his part, and his exit probably sealed Maryland's fate...

We will have the chance to face Maryland again next season, most likely at the Wachovia Center.  In addition to providing Villanova with a quality, marquee opponent at home next season, Maryland is a fun team to write about.  In addition to having a turtle as a mascot (among the most distinctive in the NCAA), the colors of the Maryland uniforms are also particularly cool.  The red and white, with the black and gold piping and trim, represent the colors of the Maryland state flag, the most vivid of any of the 50 states. 

Next Up for the Wildcats

The Wildcats next take on St. Joseph's in the annual Holy War, at the Palestra.  The history of the Holy War will be upcoming this week, so check back...

For more on the Maryland game - Brian at I Bleed Blue and White has Post Game Notes.... and check out the other fine Villanova blogs on the sidebar...

Go Wildcats!

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