Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Letters "V", "N", and "D", Are Sponsoring Tonight's Game Story, As #3 Villanova - Cheered on by Cookie Monster, Big Bird, the Count, and Oscar the Grouch - Gets Past Notre Dame, 90-72

Above - Google graphic commemorating the 40th anniversary of PBS's Sesame Street

Above - Our sponsors this evening.

To the Wildcat faithful-

I am pleased to announce that tonight's game story, has been sponsored by the letters "V", "N", and "D".

The reason - Cookie Monster, Big Bird, The Count, and Oscar the Grouch made an impromptu appearance, in the student section, at the Wachovia Center this evening.  For some reason, only Cookie Monster - sporting a navy Block "V" shirt - made it into the front row, directly behind the basket Villanova shot at in the second half.  Meanwhile, his fellow Sesame Streeters were relegated to the top of the student section, and thus were only slightly discernible to ESPN's cameras...

In contrast, Cookie Monster, due to his premier seating location, was very visible to the cameras all evening, including one time when the camera zeroed in on him.  He was also highly conspicuous, even in distant shots, as the only mass of royal blue, in the front row of a sea of navy blue - along with a pair of gigantic, exophthalmic, white eyeballs, of course.

Moreover, since Cookie Monster was unable to do the traditional finger-hoisting and waving, when a Wildcat was at the foul line - would instead cover his giant eyes in trepidation of the outcome, and wait for the crowd reaction of "Whoosh!" to a made free throw, to "restore" his vision. 

And it was very fitting, as it was - in fact - all "sunny days" for Jay Wright and his Wildcats tonight.  #3 Villanova has now rocketed off to the best start in its illustrious history, at 19-1.  They did so by downing a valiant, but overmatched and outmanned Notre Dame squad, 90-72, at the Wachovia Center...  It also marked the continuation of the best start in the school's Big East history, at a perfect 8-0...

When asked for comment, at his press conference after the game, Cookie Monster's reply - the latter part, through a mouthful of chocolate chip cookies - was:
"V is for Villanova, that's good enough for me!
Me Love Wildcats!  Me Want Top Spot in Next Week's AP Poll!  Om Nom Nom Nom..."
Inside the Box Score

When it came to scoring, Scottie Reynolds shared leadership honors with Corey Fisher this evening, both scoring 17 points.   Which is remarkable, given that Reynolds played only four minutes in the first half, due to picking up two quick fouls.  He did so on 6-13 shooting, in just 23 minutes of action.

He entered the game, needing just 24 points to join the elite of the elite - Villanova's exclusive 2,000 Point Club.  Accordingly, at 1,993 points, he should surpass the mark - fittingly - at the Pavilion, against Seton Hall on Tuesday, Groundhog Day.  (It's a prodigious scoring output, one that might even stymie The Count himself.)

Of the pair, Fisher had the better all-around game, though.  He was 5-7 from the floor, 2-3 from three-point range, and 5-5 from the line, while dealing half a dozen assists.

There was also a superb performance by Antonio Pena, underneath.  Despite having to contend with Luke Harangody, Pena contributed a double-double: 14 points on 5-8 shooting, 10 rebounds, and three assists.

The fourth Wildcat in double figures was Maalik Wayns.  Seeing some extra playing time, due to Reynolds' foul trouble, the freshman point guard played 21 minutes, scoring 10 points, with four assists against three turnovers.

Finally, Reggie Redding was not merely a vital defender against Harangody, but added nine points on 3-4 shooting, with four rebounds, three assists, no turnovers, and three steals, in just 20 minutes of action.

For Notre Dame, Harangody, as expected, led the Irish in scoring (21 points on 8-14 shooting) and rebounding (nine boards), while playing 37 minutes.  The perimeter marksman Tim Abromaitis never got rolling, though, and that was an important aspect of the Villanova victory.  While he scored 16 points, he did so on just 3-13 shooting overall, 2-8 from beyond the arc, with half of his total coming from his 8-10 from the line.  Tyrone Nash added a dozen points on 4-5 shooting, and half a dozen rebounds in just 23 minutes.

Notre Dame also failed to convert on too many of their abundant free throw opportunities, as the Irish shot only 19-30 (63.3%).  Their inability to turn them into points, was a significant factor in permitting Villanova to blow open the game, in the second half.

The Game Action

The 90-72 final score is very misleading, as the game was mostly competitive, as the Wildcats led by just a 41-40 margin at halftime.   The Irish actually took an early 8-2 lead, but their final lead came shortly after, 10-9, with 17:35 to play, and although they stayed in it for the entire first half and part of the second half, Notre Dame simply did not recapture the lead, at any point.

Villanova's largest first-half lead was eight, after a layup by Fisher made it 36-28 at the 5:34 mark, but the Irish responded with a 9-2 run to pull within one, 38-37, on a free throw from Abromaitis with 2:54 to go in the half, and each team scored three points before the buzzer to wind up at 41-40.  So Notre Dame certainly brought their game with them.

What doomed Notre Dame was its lack of depth.  Mike Brey generally uses just a seven-man rotation, and the first half was marred by 24 fouls, 15 by Villanova and nine by Notre Dame.  At halftime, Villanova's bench had scored 16 points; Notre Dame's had scored zero.

Harangody scored 16 of his 21 by the break, but more effective defense meant that he did not have a similar impact after intermission.  Guard Ben Hansbrough took himself out of the game with foul trouble, as he played only three minutes in the second half.  For inexplicable reasons, despite picking up two fouls in the first half, Hansbrough committed his third and fourth fouls, in the first 62 seconds of the second half.  He then fouled out with 12:48 to play, a loss that Notre Dame couldn't afford.

Before Villanova blew the game open with 50 second-half points, Notre Dame had played a reasonably effective zone defense, one designed to cut down on Villanova's ball screens, and the added benefit of trying to preserve their finite number of players.

However, the Wildcats permanently moved their lead into double-digits, on a layup by Redding with 8:17 to play, and it widened from there.  Villanova's ability to score in transition helped enormously; they outscored Notre Dame 11-0 in fast-break points in the second half, and 16-5 for the game as a whole.

The dagger shot came after Harangody dunked with authority at the 6:34 mark, making it 72-60.  Villanova responded with a triple from Corey Stokes at the top of the key, pushing the lead to 15 points with 6:16 remaining, triggering a huge cheer from the crowd, and ending any hope of a miraculous Notre Dame rally.

Villanova used 11 players, but for some reason, walk-on Russell Wooten did not see action, despite the Wildcats holding a 21-point lead with 2:38 to play.  (Give Wooten some minutes!)

Villanova / Notre Dame Series Update

Villanova improved to 18-14 against Notre Dame all-time, and 13-4 as members of the Big East.  It was the Wildcats' second straight victory and their fifth in the last seven contests.  The 90 points represented Villanova's third-highest scoring total at the Wachovia Center, in the 13-plus seasons in which the Wildcats have played games at the oft-renamed venue.  Notre Dame had won the last previous contest there, on January 26, 2008, prevailing, 90-80. 

Sights and Sounds

Due to ESPN's promotion of Campus Connection Week, they showed many clips of Villanova students; they filmed them painting themselves cobalt blue; boarding the R5 SEPTA train at the Villanova station, en masse, to head for the Broad Street Subway to the Wachovia Center, and the like.  They also aired a radio clip from the campus radio station broadcast of the game...

Sign observed: "E"very "S"uit "P"ressed "N"eatly...

Go Wildcats!



Anonymous said...

Very special moment for Wildcat fans tonight. Best 20-game start in school history at 19-1 (that is to say, best start ever) and also best BE start ever at 8-0.

One remarkable thing is that of the 11 players getting regular time on the floor, nine of them will return next year. The two we lose -- Scottie and Reggie -- are stellar, but still, we bring back a huge talent base and I don't even know who will show up in incoming freshman class.

We will all remember this year's team as a truly historic one. We should just sit back and enjoy the rest of the season, whatever it brings our way.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Seamus-

Thanks for the comment. I concur that this team has really surpassed even the lofty expectations, that it carried into this year.

I never conceived that we'd start the year 19-1, or win the first eight games in the conference season. We even have a fighting chance at being ranked #1 on Monday...

And I also agree that given that most of the core will be back next season, we have a chance for a real Golden Age...

Go Wildcats!