To the Wildcat faithful-
#12 Villanova - in a tailspin heading into the contest at the quasi-home floor of the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia - did something highly unexpected on Saturday afternoon. They had surprisingly little trouble in breezing past a shorthanded, but accomplished, West Virginia squad. I take particular happiness in any victory over the loathsome Bob Huggins, also. (As well as the memories of last season's overtime loss to them.)
It's been an unusual two weeks for the Villanova Wildcats. Two Saturdays ago, they heavily squeezed the Orangemen at the Carrier Dome, in their best game of the season. Since then, they were upset by Providence in that traditional house of horrors, the Providence Civic Center/Dunkin' Donuts Center. They lost narrowly to a good Georgetown team in South Philly. And after dominating the first half against Marquette on Wednesday, they let the contest get surprisingly close down the stretch at the Pavilion, eking out a five-point win.
None of this evidence pointed to the likelihood of any win over West Virginia, let alone a lopsided one. The Wildcats weren't going to be at the cozy Pavilion. Instead, they would once more be in South Philly, on a wintry mix of a day, in which the building wasn't particularly full. The trend line had been down.
The only solace heading in, was the turmoil in the Mountaineers' program. In January, one Mountaineer had ostentatiously stormed off the court during a game over a dispute about playing time. Moreover, their best player, Casey Mitchell - the Big East's sixth-leading scorer - had been suspended by Huggins for the last three games. It was unclear at today's bright and early noon-time tip (yet another reason for the smaller crowd), whether Mitchell would even play. WVU had, ironically, won two of its last three contests without him Maybe Huggins considered them better off without Mitchell.
(This all breeds yet another question - what exactly do you have to do to receive a three-game suspension from Huggins, of all people - a coach who notoriously had a 0% graduation rate when he was at Cincinnati?)
The Mitchell drama was a major storyline throughout the day. He didn't start, and that was viewed as further evidence that he was still in Huggins's doghouse. Then, with Villanova having the lead late in the first half, Huggins suddenly sent Mitchell in. It didn't help.
For all the difference that Mitchell made, Huggins might as well have left him in Morgantown (or at least decided to continue his exile for one more game...) Ultimately, in 13 minutes, Mitchell failed to score, missing three shots, committing two turnovers and a foul, with a pair of rebounds.
Full story coming...