Villanova beat Penn today in the Pavilion, 77-57. Early on, Penn had trouble keeping up with the talent, speed, and strength of the Wildcats, as they only managed 3 points halfway through the first half. Last season, the Quakers hung with the ranked team for much of the game, but Villanova made sure to minimize their chances at victory in the first half.
What looked like a total domination flipped sides in the second half as Penn outscored Villanova 46-38 after scoring only 11 points in the first half.
Jalen Brunson led all scorers with 22 points, but it was Daniel Ochefu who set the tone early for the ‘Cats. He scored 9 points in the first three minutes of the game and the team rode his good start.
Penn was led by freshman Jackson Donahue, who scored 18 points and had 5 threes to go with 3 steals.
Villanova next hosts Xavier on Thursday, December 31st. Penn, on the other hand, plays Binghamton on January 2nd at the Palestra.
While losing to a top ten team might not be catastrophic, the way Villanova played against the Oklahoma Sooners was a disaster. Poor shooting allowed the Sooners to run wild on ‘Nova on Dec. 7th and 12 days later the Wildcats are playing another top 10 team in a true road game.
The Cavaliers have one blemish on their record and that was a road defeat to George Washington. The December 19th tilt at the John Paul Jones Area will involve two teams that have very different styles of playing basketball and one program that has been brought back to national prominence in an unconventional manner.
Any athlete who has competed in a team sport long enough has heard the cliché “defense wins championships.” While certain people may disagree with this philosophy, Tony Bennett and his Cavaliers have restored glory to the Virginia basketball program by playing tenacious defense. In the 2014-15 season Virginia led the nation in scoring defense and that defensive tenacity has not gone away, as the Cavaliers have only given up more than 60 points on two occasions.
Additionally, Virginia is not receiving commitments from 5 star recruits or potential one and done freshman. Instead, they are getting the right pieces for their style of play and developing them. Two teams that dominated the headlines in college basketball last season, Duke and Kentucky, were fueled by their freshman class, and just like in previous seasons, all the key contributors from both squads have left. The Cavaliers have appeared to be immune from this trend and have been able to compete at a high level without having to constantly bring in an influx of McDonald's All-Americans.
Anticipate the Cavaliers to go eight deep against the Wildcats and be led by senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who is their leading scorer at 16.9 points a game. The interior force on offense for the Cavaliers is Anthony Gill, who is the second leading scorer at 13.6 points per game and leading rebounder with 6.4 rebounds per game. It will definitely be interesting to see if the ‘Nova defense is able to travel and neutralize the main threats for Virginia.
The most vital team matchup will be how well Villanova shoots the 3 ball against Virginia’s defense. Being unable to connect from deep against Oklahoma led to the demise of ‘Nova in Pearl Harbor. If there is another 12.5% shooting night from 3, Jay Wright and company will tally another loss.
Furthermore, the most intriguing individual matchup will be Daniel Ochefu vs. the combination of Anthony Gill and 7-footer Mike Tobey. Tobey has the size to matchup with Ochefu but Gill might have more athleticism to deal with Ochefu. It will be interesting to see who takes Villanova’s inside force.
In the loss against Oklahoma, Ochefu was a non-factor on the offensive end and for Villanova to be successful, Ochefu needs to dominate the interior.
Prediction: Charlottesville, Virginia is a difficult place for anyone to play including Villanova. It will be difficult picking the Wildcats after their neutral site performance against Oklahoma. Villanova is the better team on paper, but the stifling defense of Virginia should be able to contain the talented Villanova guards and be victorious, 67-59.
Photo: Mark Kuhlmann/Zuma Press/ Icon SportsWire
If you want to feel good about your team after a blowout, Villanova is the perfect case study: they spend a week in Hawaii and get embarrassed by Oklahoma, but then come home and destroy La Salle. The game plan for the Wildcats very much set the tone early. The fast pace of the opening quarter kept the Explorers in check and Villanova in a rhythm.
This high-tempo resulted in quick, decisive decisions made by the offenses for both teams, which is also why the score was tight early on. Villanova, using the extra pass, got tons of open looks from beyond the ark and was able to penetrate from the lane.
What I noticed in the Oklahoma matchup that worked really well was letting Daniel Ochefu work the paint with the ball more. He was able to drive from the baseline on Ryan Spangler and elevate for dunks and hard lay-ins. Ochefu got the chance to do this again against La Salle, taking a pass from the high post and euro-stepping to the basket, resulting in points. It isn’t what we typically see out of the big man, but it clearly shows that his mobility has increased and that he needs to be used to the team’s advantage.
Stopping the nation’s third ranked scorer usually helps a team out too and that’s how ‘Nova approached La Salle on defense. They only allowed Jordan Price get 16 points on the night as the Wildcats swarmed the big guard. Jalen Brunson was extremely active on the defensive side for the team, diving for loose balls, and forcing pressure on the passing lanes in the half court. Just by examining the sample size of this season, Brunson’s evolution into a primetime player over the next few seasons is going to be fun to watch.
Another player who is definitely primetime for the Wildcats is Josh Hart. The Maryland native quietly racked up buckets in this game, leading both teams with 18 points. Hart’s minimal press after his performance speaks to a higher point on Villanova’s overall team ability. The game was won on the execution of fundamental basketball and Villanova arguably does it better than anyone else in the country. La Salle had no answer for three ball threat that ‘Nova imposed but without the extra passes around the key that set up those shots from deep, those looks would be nothing more than a beaten-down statistic. Often times coaches will say “it’s not about if you got the bucket or not, but rather how you got the bucket” and I think that points to the play of this Villanova team, who work hard to get those easy buckets.
I won’t lie; it felt good seeing ‘Nova dominate like they should, but a more grave challenge awaits in Charlottesville, so let’s hope the Cats are ready. Villanova tips off with the 10th ranked Cavaliers at noon on Saturday, and be sure that coach Wright is going to be focused on execution.
Photo: USA Today Images
In the 64th all-time meeting between Villanova and La Salle, ‘Nova came out on top in a 76-47 drubbing at the Pavilion. Nova didn’t miss a beat after losing their first game of the season at the hands of 7th ranked Oklahoma this past Monday.
The Big 5 matchup started off fast with both teams trading baskets early on but the Explorers’ early turnovers and lackluster shooting from the field would allow Nova to take a 15 point lead into halftime.
The Wildcats would run La Salle out of the building with their great three point shooting percentage (13-28/46.4%), led in part by Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson, who both finished the game with 3 three pointers. ‘Nova’s unselfish play and constant ball movement also let them record 24 assists.
Hart led all scorers with 18 points, in addition to 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal, while Ryan Arcidiacono posted 14 points and 7 assists for the Wildcats. Jordan Price led La Salle in scoring with 16 points and Johnnie Shuler filled the stat sheet with 11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals.
Next up for Nova is 10th ranked Virginia, while La Salle will take on 17th ranked Miami.
Photo: (Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
After what was a smooth start to the season, Villanova got their first taste of reality on Tuesday night in the Pearl Harbor Invitational. Against #7 ranked Oklahoma, the Wildcats took a 77-58 loss at the Bloch Arena. Following a six day break, the ‘Cats took the court at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam with no air conditioning and no three point game. What usually is a strong suit for the team proved to be the killer in this one, as Villanova went 4-32, posting a .125 three-point percentage. Villanova put themselves in a hole with this lack of deep-ball accuracy and the Sooners took advantage quickly.
Oklahoma, led by senior guards Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins, was able to do what ‘Nova usually does best and annihilate an opponent with three’s. The team’s consistency from beyond the ark was just one of the predominant factors in the win for the Sooners but what was most noticeable was their durability.
Villanova countered the potent offensive game from OU with a few runs of great defense where they forced turnovers on repetitive drives and stretched the floor offensively. Oklahoma bounced back from said runs with stops of their own. As ESPN’s C. L. Brown notes, “the Sooners shut down a Villanova team that ranked eighth in adjusted offense, according to Ken Pomeroy, holding the Wildcats to a season-low 55 points and just 31.7 percent shooting from the field.” Those are the gritty characteristics that you see out of a team with its eyes on March and Oklahoma has that goal in sight.
Although I was feeling quite down and aggravated at my Wildcats for taking such a beating, there are some positives that can be drawn from the game. First of all, it is only one loss. This year’s schedule gives a very good mixture of competitive nonconference opponents and classic rivalry matchups for Villanova. There are plenty of opportunities to snatch back an easy victory or a statement win, like the upcoming contests against La Salle on the 13th, or the December 19th trip to Virginia. If ‘Nova can hop off the schneid and win at Charlottesville, a traditionally difficult away game, it will be a propellor for team confidence and national reputation as they continue through tough Big East games like #12 Xavier and at #18 Butler.
Secondly, Oklahoma is a really good team. I mean really good. This squad has the legitimate potential of a Final Four run, backed by the offensive prowess of Hield and Cousins and help on the boards from center Ryan Spangler, who also has a surprise 3 pointer in his holster.
Finally, it just wasn’t their night. This is a plausible excuse for a team who was all over the West Coast and Hawaiian Islands taking tours, doing media appearances, and alumni events. These type of non-game events that a team may go through, say during the NCAA Tournament for instance, can be distractions for the players, so a bad loss here can be used as an example for what not to do next time around.
No one should write off Villanova yet, despite my fear of the national media’s intentions to do just that. What I know about this team is that they are a young group of guys that have a whole lot of potential and talent and need a whole lot of direction. That will come partially from head coach Jay Wright, and partially from upperclassmen like Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart. What coach Wright did so well immediately after the loss was that he drew from the positives of the trip without ignoring the facts. In an interview with Villanova.com, Wright said, “I don’t think you’d normally say when you get blown out like this that it’s a good experience,” stated Wright, “but this was a great experience. I think our guys learned a lot about the service men and women that currently are serving the country because they’ve been with us. They’ve been awesome. We have learned a lot.” He also added more about the game itself, calling it “valuable” and it really is. The true testament to its value, though, will be whether Villanova learns from their mistakes. If they don’t, the value is nonexistent and soon their title hopes could be too.
Photo: Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports
Bloch Arena does not look like an imposing setting for a basketball game, with its wooden bleachers and small seating capacity. What does make the arena worthwhile is its location of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In the Hawaiian paradise on Sunday,December 1941, thousands of American died. The response from many in the United States from this devious and treacherous act was to enlist in the military and risk their lives to combat militarism and defend American ideals. Many of those American ideals were placed on the back of the jersey of the Villanova Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners. While simplistic, it is a whole hearted tribute to the sacrifices from past generations for ensuring the freedoms all Americans have today.
Now to the basketball game.
Oklahoma and Villanova have many similarities. Both of these programs are returning several key starters and reserves from last year’s squad. Each team was currently undefeated and ranked in the top 10 nationally coming into the game. The backcourts for both teams are their strengths and they both usually play a smaller lineup. While the two squads appear even on paper, the Sooners were able to overwhelm the Wildcats.
The Wildcats had a poor performance against Oklahoma and a blueprint to defeat the Wildcats was perfectly illustrated by the Sooners. They first knew that they would have to take away Villanova’s three point weapon. They knew that ‘Nova’s smaller lineup needed to be taken advantage of, which allowed them to outrebounded Villanova by 10. Additionally, while it sounds simple, they knew that hitting shots (46.7% from the field and 53.8% from 3) would also held upend Jay Wright’s crew.
There were two drastic issues with the Villanova offense in the first half. The Wildcats were passing the ball around the perimeter and settling for 3 point shots. The first problem with the 3 point barrage is none of the shots were falling, as the Wildcats were 4-32 from beyond the arc (12.5%) and 32 out of their 63 shots (50.7%) were from downtown on the night. The second issue was the ‘Nova offense, which was one dimensional and easy to guard. There were very few post touches or drives to the basket.
Oklahoma also held Villanova to one shot. Out of there 43 opportunities, the Wildcats only had 9 offensive rebounds. Overall the Sooners outrebounded the Wildcats by 10. The inability to obtain rebounds is a liability of a smaller lineup which will be predominantly used this season. The alarming issue is that Oklahoma does not have a dominant post presence which could mean a big athletic frontcourt could lead to the demise of Villanova.
There is an old cliché in basketball and that is live by the 3, die by the 3. On this night Oklahoma lived by the 3, going 14-26 (53.8%) from deep. The hot shooting was contagious as five different Sooners drilled a shot. Now the credit can go to Oklahoma for making the shots or to Villanova for not contesting the shots. While at the onset of the game, the Sooners were hitting uncontested 3s. But as the game progressed, many Oklahoma players became more comfortable and pulled up from several feet beyond the arc and were able to convert.
After the loss, Villanova will travel back home to take on La Salle on December 13th.
Photo: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports
In the infant stages of the 2015-2016 basketball season, the best word to describe the Villanova Wildcats has been dominant. The closest margin of victory for 'Nova has been 14 points which came against Stanford. Even though Villanova has not faced their toughest competition they have had convincing wins over Nebraska, Stanford, and Georgia Tech. In the early parts of the season there are four positive takeaways for the Wildcats.
1) Ryan Arcidiacono has the most assists on the team with 28 at this current time. While that stat does not seem to be overwhelming, Arcidiacono has only committed 6 turnovers and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.67 is phenomenal. Many coaches emphasis taking care of the ball and every coach at any level would be ecstatic if they have a point guard with a ridiculous assist-to-turnover ratio.
2) Daniel Ochefu has been dominate in the paint by averaging 9.4 points and 7.7 rebounds a game. More importantly Ochefu has averaged 3.4 offensive rebounds a game which enables the Wildcats to extend their own possessions. If there is a weakness for Nova it is in there frontcourt but if Ochefu is able to continue his performance many teams will have a difficult time upending Villanova.
3) Kris Jenkins, who has filled the starting forward spot vacated by the graduation of JayVaugn Pinkston, has been key in Villanova's success. Jenkins has increased his production by nearly doubling his scoring average from 6 points per game in the 2015 season to 12 points per game this season. Jenkins could develop into an x-factor that could determine wins and losses for Jay Wright's crew as the season progresses.
4) Another important part has been the emergence of the much hyped Jalen Brunson. The heralded Wildcat recruit won college accolades before he even played a college game when he won the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year. After the NIT Season Tip Off Brunson’s performance led to another award when Brunson was given the Most Outstanding Player award for the tournament. Brunson’s play has been much anticipated and necessary for 'Nova to make a deep run into March.
While an undefeated record and convincing wins are always a positive, there are still certain issues that could hamper Villanova in a more competitive atmosphere. One challenge that could face 'Nova later in the season is how they matchup with a team that has a solid frontcourt. None of their previous opponents had dominant forwards and the best challenge to the Wildcat frontcourt could come from conference foe Xavier.
The Villanova guards have also been able to penetrate to the basket at will against select opponents. While it could be considered a cliché, it is often true that defense wins championship. The biggest challenge for Villanova will be when they visit Virginia which has been able to resurrect their program by placing a new emphasis on defense. While ‘Nova guards were able to easily penetrate against lesser opponents, the Cavaliers lockdown defense will be able to match up better against the depth and skill of the Wildcat guards.
Photo: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t think there is a greater feeling in the world for a sports fan than watching your team do well. It's not just winning games, but watching them play the game well. That is exactly what Villanova did against Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday and that is what they have been doing all year: playing well. Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory said following the Yellow Jackets’ loss to the Wildcats in the NIT Season Tip Off semifinal that “[Villanova] is as good, probably, as anybody in the country right now.” Gregory’s statement affirms that Villanova is one of the best teams in the country if they can keep all the pieces of the puzzle together. The way in which the Wildcats took down the Hawks with their 86-72 victory on the road only seconded that notion.
Starting off the scoring for the ‘Cats was Josh Hart who unloaded a beautiful 3 pointer a little over 2 minutes into the contest. Hart, who finished with 18 points, kept the pace for the offense throughout the evening. The Big East Sixth Man of the Year last season continues to prove his legitimacy as a top threat from the guard position. Fellow guard Jalen Brunson contributed most notably with stellar passes that created scoring opportunities, while adding to his season total of 26 assists. He also was aggressive on defense, despite being one of the shortest players on the court, standing at 6-foot-2. His scrappy attitude resembles that of senior co-captain Ryan Arcidiacono, who also has an edge to his game.
Arcidiacono was additionally fluid with the ball on Tuesday. His on-ball moves are just a fraction of his overall skill set which has gained national recognition, as he has been named to the Naismith National Player of the Year Award Watch List. A particularly memorable moment for Arch was with 8:42 left in the 2nd quarter, where he was on the right elbow and put on a crossover clinic on Saint Joseph’s James Demery that set up a Mikal Bridges basket. The head fake and spin around dribble is a move done by showboats and ballers. Arch is definitely the latter of the two.
Another contributor was Daniel Ochefu who again was impressive defensively by adding to his 15 blocks on year. As the only option at big man for the ‘Cats, he handles the pressure extremely well.
Redshirt freshman Mikal Bridges was another who dropped 11 points in the win. Coach Jay Wright raves about Bridges and loves his energy on and off the court. He also noted that he looks forward to when Bridges is an upperclassmen and gets starting time to be a key figure in the offense.
Everything that Villanova did against St. Joe’s was impeccable. The on-court ability is a force to be reckoned within its own right, but the intangibles are what captivates the fans and analysts. Russell Steinberg of SBNation calls the Wildcats “the most ruthlessly efficient team in college basketball” and deservingly so. Many teams that start off hot lose steam later in the season and often struggle with the pace of a March Madness-like atmosphere. Those postseason games often come down to the buzzer entail precision on all ends of the floor and flawless communication, and the Wildcats do that arguably better than anyone else. It may be because of the deadly three pointer, which almost every member of the roster can shoot, or it may be because of the precise coaching Jay Wright instills in his guys. Either way, the 14-point win on Tuesday at Hawk Hill is as convincing as any.
Villanova looks to continue their hot streak as they travel to Hawaii to take on Oklahoma at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on December 7, the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attacks. Following that Big East/Big 12 matchup, on the 15th, the La Salle Explorers will head into the Pavilion for a Philly Big 5 game. Later, the ‘Cats head to Charlottesville to take on the Cavaliers from the University of Virginia on December 19th. This is a highly anticipated matchup that pits two tournament and defensively dominant teams against each other. Look for competitive matches in all three games.
Oklahoma has rolled recently, probably because of playing only two games against viable opponents in Memphis and Wisconsin, yet they are still ranked sixth in the country. ‘Nova is head and shoulders above La Salle in terms of talent, so a win here should be expected, but don't expect the Explorers to go down out without a fight. Finally, the UVA game will be a test for the Wildcats. It will be interesting to see if they can attack the Cavs’ defensive pressure with the three-point shot they hold in their arsenal. This is an advantageous position for Villanova, who will see a varied group of opponents over the next few weeks, testing their grit and durability.
Photo: Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Villanova (7-0) wins their 7th straight game against Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s (4-2) 86-72, at Hagan Arena. The Wildcats were led in scoring by juniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, who both finished the game with 18 points. Senior Ryan Arcidiacono finished with 17 points including multiple big shots.
Saint Joseph’s DeAndre Bembry had 17 points, but it was not enough for the Hawks to complete the upset. Senior Isaiah Miles continued his strong play with 14 points and 5 offensive rebounds. However, they couldn’t stop Villanova as the nationally ranked team shot 50% from the field and 87% from the line.
The Wildcats will next face sixth ranked Oklahoma while Saint Joseph’s travels to Columbia.
-William Derry and Benjamin Simon
-(1) Villanova defeats (3) Michigan in the National Championship