Two years to the day since the last Villanova win against a Top 25 ranked team, the Wildcats stunned #5 ranked, Louisville with a 73-64 win at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Cats played solid team defense and shared the ball in a balanced scoring attack that yielded five players in double-figures. Despite turning the ball over 19 times, 'Nova was only -2 in turnover margin while managing to achieve a push on the boards.
The upstart Wildcats, fought back in response to several strong Louisville runs including a 12-0 run in the first half and a second-half, 5 minute long stretch of 4 to 6 point leads that Villanova finally closed with a Darrun Hilliard transition basket "and one". Everyone contributed offense down the stretch to win it: Yarou drained a baseline, 18 footer, Ochefu tipped in a missed three-pointer, Yacoubou and Bell drained deep three-balls, and then 'Nova made 12-14 free-throws in the last 2:09 to seal the victory.
Held Russ Smith to 2-13 FGs and 8 points
Forced 17 Louisville turnovers
The Cards' horrendous free-throw shooting (12-24, 50%)
Received positive contributions on both ends of the floor from all 8 players in the rotation
Not so goods:
Inbounding the basketball continues to be an adventure
Player Evals & Stats
36 Min, 3-8 FG, 2-5 3PFG, 7-8 FT, 5 Reb, 3 Asst, 4 TO, 2 Stl, 15 Pts
Played hard-nosed defense, got on the glass a bit, a knocked down his FTs. Arcidiacono played an decent floor game against the Louisville pressure despite some harrowing experiences inbounding and bringing the ball up against pressure.
32 Min, 3-6 FG, 1-4 3PFG, 4-5 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Asst, 2 TO, 3 Stl, 0 Blk, 11 Pts
Active defense. Converted a massive transition lay-up 'and one" to get 'Nova within striking distance late in the game. Balanced effort. Showed some poise under pressure and a willingness to step up and make big plays.
26 Min, 4-9 FG, 0-0 3PFG, 3-5 FT, 6 Rebs, 0 Asst, 4 TO, 1 Blk, 0 Stl, 11 Pts
Pinkston led all Cats in rebounding in the game and made some important buckets in traffic in the second-half. Needs to take better care of the ball. Continues to struggle with foul difficulties.
29 Min, 2-7 FG, 2-2 3PFG, 4-4 FT, 3 Rebs, 2 Asst, 1 TOs, 0 Blk, 1 Stl, 10 Pts
One of his better performances of the season. Contributed solid defense to the cause. One consistent aspect of Bell's play since day one in a 'Nova uniform has been his willingness to step and and take the big three-point attempt at a critical moment. He knocked down a huge one from just inside NBA range to put the Cats up six late.
21 Min, 4-9 FG, 3-4 FT, 4 Rebs, 1 Asst, 3 TO, 1 Blk, 0 Stl, 11 Pts
Though he missed a couple of close-in FG attempts and didn't post gaudy numbers, Yarou exhibited leadership and a will to win. Grabbed key rebounds and drained an important, late jumper.
23 Min, 2-3 FG, 1-1 3PFG, 1-3 FTs, 2 Rebs, 2 Stl, 3 Asst., 2 TOs, 6 Pts
Chennault was more aggressive in trying to create offense off the dribble while at the same time more selective in taking his own shots. The result was a better performance than he has put forth in recent games. He put a three-point exclamation point on a VU possession that featured an impressive display of quick ball movement and passing to the open man. Played passionate defense and made a conscientious effort to disrupt the passing lanes.
16 Min, 3-3 FG, 0-0 3PFG, 0-0 FTs, 2 Reb, 1 Asst, 2 TO, 1 Blk, 2 Stl, 6 Pts
Fouled out in only 16 minutes of action. Finished strong when he got the ball in the lane, Made good passing decisions when he couldn't get his own shot. Covered a lot of ground on defense.
17 Min, 1-2 FG, 1-2 3PFG, 0-0 FTs, 5 Rebs, 4 Asst, 0 Stl, 1 TO, 0 Blk, 3 Pts
His stat line isn't sensational but Yacoubou played a very strong 17 minutes. He made several nice passes to get teammates wide open looks. Yacoubou made a handful of defensive rebounds including some tough ones in traffic. His ball-handling and decision-making are improving as he gets more minutes and his comfort level rises.
Missed a late three-point attempt.
The ebb and flow of a college basketball season often defies logic and reason. For two years, Coach Wright and his Wildcats have struggled to close games against good teams. That elusive win over a quality team couldn't have come at a better time for a 'Nova program trying to rediscover it's mojo.
This game provided: an opportunity for Villanova students to storm the court … a positive moment for the Villanova faithful who made their way downtown despite a general feeling that a blow-out loss was well within the realm of possibility … a taste of winning for the younger players on the team … and an example of what this team can accomplish if it works hard and together to execute the game-plans of Coach Wright and his staff.
It will be interesting to see how this team will build on this positive experience.