What went right and what went wrong in the Villanova Wildcats’ 66-61 overtime loss to the Seton Hall Pirates.
I am going to hit the most obvious positive from the Wildcats' game against Seton Hall: DANIEL OCHEFU. He was a beast on the boards and in the paint registering 19 points and 24 rebounds. This is, hands down, the best game of his two and a half year career at Villanova. ‘Chef was stellar from the field, going 7-9, and great on the offensive glass, pulling down 8 OREB but he was, much like all the other Wildcats, mediocre from the line going 5-10.
Why did it happen? ‘Chef had to be the guy. The Pirates played some very tough defense and covered most of the floor doing it. This led to the Wildcats getting a lot of free throws and if you want to look below, you can see how that turned out. Ochefu got more minutes in this game (35 min) than he has had in any game of this year. The only game in which he played more, was a 2OT Game against Providence last year when he had 36 minutes. With Darrun Hilliard II in foul trouble and JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart and Dylan Ennis going a combined 5-32, the Wildcats didn't have many options to get the ball in the basket. The one thing the Pirates did not have was a serious interior defender and Ochefu attacked that weakness. It's a shame that the Wildcats so desperately needed him to step up, but its great to see that he's there when they need it.
As for the rebounds, that can be racked up to a numbers game. There were over 100 missed shots in this game. Let me repeat that for emphasis: There were OVER 100 missed shots in this game. 101 to be specific when you include free throws. That led to 89 total rebounds for both teams combined and 47 for the Wildcats, including 19 on the offensive end. This is hard to view as a positive when you consider they had to miss 40 shots from the field and another 15 from the line to get there. I'm sure Jay Wright would happily have traded some rebounds for made shots. (I'm now accepting votes for understatement of the year.)
I could go to shooting and free throw shooting, but that's too obvious for me and my graduate degree. I'm going to pick on Nova's defense for a bit today. What is normally a stellar defensive group appeared to be going through the motions on Saturday at the ‘Rock.
Deficiency 1: The Wildcats simply could not match up with Sterling Gibbs, which is surprising in that it was mostly off the dribble that he found holes, not through the swing pass or kick-out pass. Sure, he only shot 40% from the field, but that's good enough to be better than either team averaged from the field. The dribble to the paint and pull-up routine was coming way to easy for both Gibbs and Khadeen Carrington (who dropped a career-high 17 points) against the boys from the Main Line. The Wildcats just seemed to lack the intensity of the Pirates, who were playing in front of a highly active home crowd. This led to double teaming Gibbs as soon as he crossed half-court which just isn't Villanova's style....
Deficiency 2: The Wildcats just seemed a bit disinterested and sluggish in their trapping defense and often had to resort to a shameful double teaming of Sterling Gibbs. I say shameful, because, there is no reason that the Wildcats shouldn't have the talent and athleticism to match up with him in their typical shifting man-to-man defense. This raises bigger concerns about what the Wildcats will do against scorers like D'Vauntes Rivera Smith, LaDontae Henton and D'Angelo Harrison (on Tuesday night). If the Wildcats can't toughen up and stick to their scheme, they are in for trouble both in-conference and beyond.
The ‘Cats' inability to trap was evident, as the Pirates seemed to have a pretty simple three-pass system to get around it that worked the majority of the time. This led to the first game this season where the Wildcats seemed to have a significant disadvantage in ball possession. For all the positives of ‘Chef's big performance, he still managed to give up the ball five times while even Arch coughed the ball up an uncharacteristic three times. Normally, the Wildcats are able to produce a significant number of turnovers, which leads to easy points and a higher shooting percentage. You could see the lack of both were evident in this Saturday's box score. The Wildcats were were uncharacteristically slow and imprecise, and seemed to be content with that as they quickly switched to a double-teaming of Gibbs which totally took the emphasis of their game off of their usually effective trapping. This means less turnovers and less points off those turnovers.
Going into the top 25 clash with St. John's, Wildcats fans need to hope Villanova comes out with more tenacity from the start and plays a tighter more intense team defense than they did against SHU.