Above - Punxsutawney Phil prognosticating six more weeks of Villanova victories.
To the Wildcat faithful-
This morning Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and has predicted six more weeks of Villanova victories.
Or, as Bill Murray's Phil Connors in the 1993 classic film Groundhog Day would experience it: Villanova continues to win, every single day, and Scottie Reynolds continues to score, every single day.
It might seem monotonous to some, but eternal residence in the world of Punxsutawney Phil and Phil Connors would be fine for Villanova Wildcats fans - just keep living this same day, over, and over, and over, until it's time to bring home a second national championship come April...
Reynolds became just the eighth Wildcat ever to reach the 2,000 point plateau, and the #2 Wildcats - after some rough oceans - finally sunk the Seton Hall Pirates, in front of a delirious home crowd at the Pavilion, in the first game at the venue in nearly three weeks.
It was Villanova's 36th straight victory at the Pavilion.
It was Villanova's seventh straight triumph over the Pirates.
The Pirates had been seeking to win at the Pavilion, for the first time since 1994, but it wasn't to be.
I'd like to highly recommend, for a Seton-Hall-based point of view, the blog Gonzo Ball, where GonzoBallSHU offers his exceptionally detailed thoughts on the contest, in "Post Game Thoughts... Was the White Flag Waved?" It's very much worth reading, to see how our opponents viewed the game...
Villanova improved to 9-0 Big East, 20-1 overall, extending the school records for the best start to a season, both in conference and in all games. Seton Hall, which badly needed a second win over a ranked team to help its NCAA tournament prospects, fell to 3-6 Big East, 12-8 overall, and will need to turn things around quickly.
Antonio Pena took both scoring and rebounding honors tonight, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds, as well as an incredibly stupid and dangerous flagrant foul, pulling down a Pirate by his jersey, en route to a layup and making no legitimate attempt whatsoever to play the ball.
But it was Reynolds, naturally, who took center stage. Winding down his Pavilion career, he scored 15 points on 6-12 shooting, adding five assists and four rebounds, while attaining the milestone.
Other Players of Distinction
Corey Fisher chipped in a dozen points on 5-12 shooting, with Corey Stokes coming to life in the second half. The Bayonne Bomber, held scoreless at halftime, ended up adding 11 points, including 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc, with each triple answering a Pirate rally. The deep Villanova bench played its usual role in the victory, adding 20 points of its own.
For Seton Hall, Jeremy Hazell provided one of the greatest one-man performances ever, by a visitor to the Pavilion. He scored 32 points on 12-23 shooting, including 6-12 from beyond the arc, topping even his 27-point outburst last year in the overtime Villanova victory at the Prudential Center. Coach Bobby Gonzalez inexplicably removed Hazell down the stretch, although he was routinely being double and even triple teamed by Villanova defenders.
There were 10 lead changes and half a dozen ties, and it was not a comfortable game to watch, for a Villanova fan. Of course, the big highlight was Reynolds' arrival at the 2,000 point mark. It came surprisingly late, with Reynolds sitting at 1,999 points, with 11:35 to play. After Reynolds missed a triple due to it being blocked by Keon Lawrence, Villanova recovered a team rebound, and Reynolds drove in - fittingly - for a layup - his 2000th and 2001st points as a Wildcat.
I was surprised that the game wasn't halted in recognition, at least when Villanova regained possession on the next series. It is possible that during one of the ESPNU timeouts, that some sort of ceremony was observed, since I wasn't at the game in person. But I had anticipated, that given the milestone, they at least would have taken the ball out of play, and permitted Reynolds an ovation.
It's possible that because the game was still back-and-forth at that point, that the officials felt that calling an arbitrary timeout would have interfered with the flow of the game. (If it had been up to me, I certainly would have stopped the game, even though it was close, because there were over 11 minutes to go in the half, but who knows what the proper procedure is...)
Update: Thanks to commenter pttam7yanks below, who attended the game at the Pavilion, for clarifying the tribute to Reynolds - he added this to the comments section, with the good info:
I was at the game, and most of the student section knew Scottie got his 2,000th point as it happened and started chanting his name right away. Then, at the first TV timeout following his 2,000th point, they made an announcement over the PA system, for which Scottie received a standing ovation from everyone in the building.
One of Hazell's layups gave Seton Hall its last tie, at 62-62, with 9:41 to go, but the Pirates would never take the lead or retie the contest. Villanova answered with a strong run of its own, 11 unanswered points, launched by a triple from Stokes at the top of the key. Over those three minutes, the Wildcats blew it open, holding a comfortable 73-62 advantage with 6:01 to go, after a pair of free throws from Isaiah Armwood.
With 4:25 to go, and Villanova leading 76-66, Hazell missed a jumper, and off the miss, Pena dunked, and that dunk absolutely killed Seton Hall, morale-wise. The Wildcats now had a 12-point lead, with four minutes to play, and the crowd was going wild. Gonzalez removed Hazell, for the rest of the game - that was his final shot of his two dozen attempts. (His numbers are even better, when you consider that he played only 34 minutes.)
It's possible that Gonzalez thought that the game was effectively over. Granted, they were only down 12 with four minutes to play, but against the #2 team in the nation, on its on-campus true home court, with the crowd at fever pitch and with all of the momentum, Seton Hall had no meaningful chance to win, after that dunk. He might have thought that Hazell had given it the proverbial college try, and it was time to go back to the drawing board. But for whatever reason, Hazell never returned.
Update: Gonzo Ball's story today confirms GonzoBallSHU's theory from last night - namely, that Hazell was not removed due to fatigue, injury, or a belief that the game was over, but because Gonzalez felt that he was taking too many bad shots, driving into traffic, and so Hazell was benched, accordingly.
I would like to give the Pirates credit for a very gutsy, scrappy, and valiant effort tonight. For 30 of the 40 minutes, they gave us all we could handle. The Pavilion was quiet for much of the night, and it was a moderately unsettling game for a Villanova fan. Eventually, the relentless wave of white jerseys off the Villanova bench just wore down the Pirates. Hazell had 32 points; nobody else had more than nine.
I also credit Gonzalez for not needless prolonging his team's agonies. Despite the fact that it had been nip and tuck throughout, the reality was that his team was down 13 points with 2:59 to play, and he did not attempt to extend it. There were no fouls ordered, and Seton Hall, while it tried to score, did not do so in a meaningful attempt to rally. The Pirates were also out of timeouts, having used all of them to try to quiet the Villanova crowd, and that might have been a factor in both his decision to take out Hazell and not to foul at the end.
The Wildcats also dominated on the glass. Villanova absolutely annihilated the Pirates, 50-31, on the boards, and that statistic, more than any other, explains the outcome. The teams both shot essentially the same percentage (43.9% for the Wildcats, 43.3% for the Pirates) from the floor, and from three-point range (31.6% for Seton Hall, 30% for Villanova). Also, Villanova did get to the foul line twice as often, taking two dozen attempts compared to the Hall's dozen.
The First Half
Reynolds and Fisher both picked up two fouls in the first half, leaving Wayns to run the point, and Reynolds remaining short of the magic number of 7, in order to reach 2,000 for his career. Reggie Redding had a turnover when Hazell, guarding him, tipped the pass to himself - ugly. Wayns drove the lane, trying to dunk among taller Pirates, and spectacularly clanged the dunk off the rim. But the first half had some bright spots, two dunks by Pena. Pena had a particularly strong first half. After shooting nearly 50% in the early going, Seton Hall went cold, making just 1-10 in one span.
Villanova led just 41-34 at halftime, after King's desperation three came reasonably close to going in. But Reynolds's 2000th point, helped key the Wildcats to pull away, after Seton Hall had tied the game, midway through the second half. Villanova held on for an 81-71 victory...
Next Up for the Wildcats
Villanova will head down to the Verizon Center for another showdown with ranked Georgetown, at high noon. I will provide a full preview, as well an updated Villanova/Georgetown Rivalry History, so please check back...