Saturday, January 15, 2011

#7 Wildcats Top Terrapins With 19-0 2nd Half Run, Overcome 12 Point Deficit

To the Wildcat faithful-

The #7 Villanova Wildcats - in what we have to acknowledge was an extremely entertaining game, although frightening halfway through the second half - used an incredible 19-0 run in the second half to best a black-jerseyed Maryland Terrapins squad, 74-66, at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.

Despite the close geographical proximity of the two schools, it was only their fifth meeting ever, and the return game from Villanova's trip to Maryland last season.  Maryland was noteworthy in two aspects of Villanova basketball history.  The Terrapins were the third team Villanova vanquished, on its way to the 1985 national championship, in the Sweet 16.  And the following season, they were also the first opponent to ever take the floor at the then-new Pavilion, on campus.

I'll have some more extended thoughts on today's victory...  in the meantime-

Go Wildcats!

Update- full story:

Saturday’s victory over Maryland was one of the oddest games in recent Villanova history.  The Wildcats trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half, before their 19-0 run quelled Maryland’s upset bid.

Villanova’s inability to get to the foul line, particularly in the first half, was one reason why Maryland was able to take a 36-33 halftime lead, en route to the aforementioned 12 point advantage.  The Wildcats, who average well over 20 free throw attempts per contest, had a grand total of three attempts in the first half.  Moreover, when the Wildcats do get there, they make a high percentage of the shots.  Our shooting percentage is tops in the Big East and among the best, nationally.

This was good strategy, on the part of Maryland coach – and Collingswood, NJ, native – Gary Williams, who developed a love of basketball, partially due to his frequent attendance of Palestra doubleheaders.  Although he ultimately played at Maryland, graduating in 1968 (in addition to his 22 years and the 2002 national championship in College Park), Williams originally wanted to play for Penn - which was a national powerhouse at the time.

But back to Saturday's game.  Williams recognized that this was a critical part of our offense, and the Terrrapins were clearly instructed not to commit fouls, if possible.  Villanova makes too many free throws for that strategy to be effective.  (And Maryland had its own weakness in that area – Maryland entered the contest, ranked 306th in Division I, in terms of free throw percentage.)  And Villanova, as a result, barely got to the foul line, during the first half.

Ironically, the issue with fouls came from Villanova’s end.  Mouphtaou Yarou was saddled with foul trouble for the entire contest.  From purely a shooting perspective, Mouph had his worst game of the season.  He missed all six of his field goal attempts, finishing with just three points from the foul line. 

Villanova’s initial plays in the first half were run well, designed to get Mouph shots in the paint.  I believe that had he not gotten into foul trouble, Jay Wright would have continued to run the offense through him, but here’s what happened…

After missing two shots underneath, Mouph committed two quick fouls.  The second one was particularly egregious.  Mouph missed a shot in the post, and then decided – as a way of overcompensating – to foul Maryland’s guard from behind, out on the perimeter.  This was a terrible decision on Mouph’s part, as it took him out of the game.  He was immediately yanked, and logged only five minutes in the first half.

Mouph would then compound his error, by committing his third foul, immediately after play resumed in the second half.  He would ultimately play only 23 minutes, before fouling out in the last two minutes.  He did have an outstanding game on the glass, pulling in a dozen rebounds – a great total even if he had played the entire game, but particularly valuable in light of the relative lack of minutes.

Ordinarily, he wouldn’t have played that much in the second half, given his three fouls in the first 21 minutes.  But Maryland was ahead for much of the second half, and Wright had no choice but to leave him out there.

As it turned out, Mouph’s foul trouble was particularly problematic, since Wright had decided prior to the contest that Maurice Sutton – the player who invariably replaces Mouph if he gets in foul trouble – would be serving a single-game suspension, for violating a team rule.  So Wright had Mouph in foul trouble and Sutton, unavailable.

Villanova’s personnel problems were further compounded when Dominic Cheek sprained his knee in the first half, and didn’t return for the second.  Cheek played only four first-half minutes, did not score, and added two rebounds.

As a result, this was a game, where a shorthanded Villanova team really needed some punch in the paint – and fortunately, Antonio Pena had a great day.  Pena played all but one minute of the game, and turned in a double-double – 14 points on 7-12 shooting, along with 10 rebounds.

Other Wildcats also had fine days on offense.  Maalik Wayns led the way for Villanova, with 22 points on 7-10 shooting from the field and 7-9 shooting from the foul line – in all, a superb performance, particularly in only 29 minutes.  Corey Fisher played all but three minutes, finishing with 17 points on 7-15 shooting overall and 5-6 from three-point range, plus five assists. 

It was a subpar game from Corey Stokes, who struggled from the floor.  He finished with nine points on 4-14 shooting, and made just one of his seven attempts from three-point range.

Coming off the bench, Isaiah Armwood had a monster game on the glass, grabbing 13 rebounds (including five on the offensive end) in just 22 minutes.  James Bell saw 10 minutes, scoring three points to go with one offensive rebound, and one assist.

As a team, the Wildcats did their usual fine conversion rate from the line, connecting on 15 of their 20 attempts (75%).  Although Villanova obviously had no control over this, the Terrapins also had their usual dreadful performance from the foul line – 10-18 (57%).

The CBS Broadcast – Verne Lundquist and Clark Kellogg Were Great

I was particularly happy to learn that Verne Lundquist and Clark Kellogg would be calling the game for CBS.  Kellogg had his share of Kelloggisms, including a compliment to Gregory after a dunk, that he had been “coming strong and coming correct” to the hoop.  (Hopefully, we’ll make it to the Final Four again, and have Kellogg doing the analysis of the Wildcats, once more…)

Lundquist accurately noted the aforementioned, unexpected role that Maryland has played in Villanova basketball history.  But even better, CBS showed a clip from the 1985 Sweet 16 victory, in which you could see young Rollie Massimino, young Steve Lappas, and most surprisingly – young Lundquist!

Lundquist himself noted, in a wry, self-deprecating way - “I had hair back then.”  He added that although he did not call the Villanova/Maryland game in Birmingham, Alabama, he did in fact call the second Sweet 16 game, that took place immediately after it, on that court in Birmingham, over a quarter-century ago.

Maryland Traditions – “Fear the Turtle” and Testudo, Uniforms with Four Colors

I have friends with Maryland ties, and their enthusiasm for the Terrapins (known colloquially as the Terps) knows no bounds.  I must say that although he didn’t make the trip north on Saturday, that Testudo – the formal name for the Terrapin mascot, a giant turtle – is indubitably one of the coolest mascots in all of college basketball.  As much as I love the Wildcat, the only downside to the nickname is that it’s so commonplace, throughout Division I.

“Fear the Turtle” is the Maryland slogan.  Back in the day, when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles entered the pop-culture scene, their “Turtle Power” slogan was also appropriated by the Maryland faithful.

Although, as a general rule, we don’t like black jerseys unless it’s actually the school’s colors – like Providence – Maryland’s black jerseys actually are in keeping with the state’s colors, so we liked them.  Maryland has the coolest flag of any state in the Union – you’ve undoubtedly seen it – the one in which two quadrants are red and white, and the other two black and gold with a checkerboard design.  If you looked carefully yesterday, the uniforms were black and gold, but with red numbers.  Usually, the Maryland uniforms are red and white, with black and gold trim…
One Final Observation

When Villanova was trailing in the second half, the guards rolled the ball up the floor, in order to save a couple of seconds, due to the rule that the clock won’t start until the ball is touched.

Now, this makes some sense, if you’re behind during the last three minutes.  But they did this with over eight minutes to go (yes, eight minutes)!  I don’t think that I’d ever seen a team do that with so much time remaining (I disagree with the tactic, as you can tell!)  Fortunately, that was the only possession on which they tried it.

Next Up For the Wildcats
Villanova has little time to celebrate the victory, as they must make the dreaded trip up to #10 Connecticut, for Monday night’s contest, with the hated Huskies…  Until then-

Go Wildcats!


Anonymous said...

Very insightful wrap-up as usual. Thank you. Hope to see more of them in 2011. Happy New Year

Didn't realize Williams hung out at the Palestra as a boy. I think he's a very interesting guy. Excellent coach. Does things the right way. Brought the Terrapins back from the disaster of the Len Bias cocaine death and Lefty Drisell's management of the program, which was divorced completely from accountability to academic leaders on campus. Williams gets a lot of criticism locally for refusing to deal with street agents, but he has a national championship ring on his hand.

I worry about his health. He puts himself through a mental wringer every night for 30 or more games a season. He's drenched in anxiety sweat within five or ten minutes of tip off. I think that sort of stress must do serious physical damage to his cardiovascular system over the years.

That was an incredible run fueled by Fisher. Amazing really. The game generally often consists of runs, but to seem to be totally out of kilter and then just dominate play like that was remarkable.

I have to say I can't really understand how teams can go on runs and give them up. I'm not able to look at the game and understand what explains these turnarounds, apart from a reversal of team psychology.

I recall two other huge Villanova runs, both during the Lappas years.(I would say Villanova's victories over Penn and Western Kentucky during the 1971 run-up to the national championship game were both extended Villanova runs that began at tipoff and ended with the final whistle.) Not sure I'm right on all the details of either of the Lappas games.

At Georgetown in the MCI center during the Tim Thomas year, G'town went on an unreal run in the first half -- going up by about 21 points. The 'Cats came roaring back with 17 unanswered points. G'town, on the ropes, finally staunched the bleeding when one of our guys blew a layup and the ball went to this monstrous Hoya center (huge overweight guy) who threw down a dunk that almost brought the basket down. G'town won the game.

The second was at the Pavilion, against VPI, then in the Big East. I think we came back from a 27-point deficit late in the second half in that game. The game was lost. No way to win it. We couldn't put the ball in the ocean. And somehow we exploded as the Hokies fell apart and we pulled it out.

Was that Lappas's final year? Don't remember. But he was under immense stress and criticism and tears ran down his face at the post-game conference.

Happy New Year! This looks to be a very good Villanova team, and I think it will get better. Like Jay, I wasn't entirely sure we deserved our top ten ranking until recently, but we're obviously doing very well in conference play so far. Away games at UConn and Syracuse will be huge test for us. I'll be satisfied with a win at either.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Seamus-

As always, thanks for the compliments, as well as the comment. Best wishes for the New Year, to you as well...

My two cents on all of the above:

Much of what I know about Gary Williams, biographically, comes from a book by John Feinstein, A March To Madness, where he followed a late-'90s season in the ACC. His revival of the program was remarkable (and this was written, long before he won the title with Maryland in 2002.)

It's an excellent, entertaining book (Villanova actually has a cameo appearance - the first-ever Villanova game at the brand-new, then-CoreStates Center, in December 1996, the loss to Duke, is described in the book...)

The Tim Thomas Year

As always, you have quite a memory, and you go back further than I do. One minor point - the one you're describing was actually at the old Cap Centre in Landover, Maryland.

I remember that fact, if for no other reason, that the following year's contest (December 1997) was the first-ever Georgetown game at the MCI Center, and it was against us. And we won, ironically.

I don't recall the name of the Hoya who dunked it, though.

The Incredible Comeback Against Virginia Tech

Yes, you were correct, that was in fact Lappas's final year (2000-01). I was there, and it was arguably the most exciting game I ever had the opportunity to witness, personally, in that building. (In the grand scheme of things, it was against a very weak opponent, but in terms of the adrenaline rush in the building, I can't recall one that can top it.)

Anonymous said...

After posting, I remembered the "huge Hoya center" who broke the Villanova run. His name was Jahidi White.

White didn't take up just a "lot of lane." He occupied the whole thing -- and he made it into the pros, although I don't know how long he lasted.