Big Five champs again! After getting their collective bell rung by Juan Fernandez a year ago the Wildcats managed to overcome another solid effort by the Argentinian and the rest of the Temple Owls yesterday to complete their sweep and earn Philly bragging rights.
Corey Stokes led the Cats with 24 on 7 for 13 shooting which included five from three-point-land. Stokes offensive resurgence (generally speaking) is a welcome surprise. It was of particular use yesterday as Corey Fisher and Antonio Pena struggled. It all makes for a lot of head scratching as I still just can't figure this team out offensively. Maalik Wayns (21 pts on 6 for 14 shooting with nine from the line) and Stokes and Mouphtaou Yarou (14 pts on 6 for 10 and two from the line) were the heroes yesterday. But the way this team plays Pena and Fisher may roar back and earn heaps of praise next week.
I suppose it's not a bad problem to have as a team but when two seniors are so inconsistent it's at the very least frustrating (more so for them than us I would imagine).
Another frustration is Dominic Cheek. I think we can all agree that the kid has what it takes. He has an amazing set of skills; but for whatever reason he is struggling more than just about anyone else. Perhaps it's simply the fact that he is not the first, second or even third option most of the time he's on the court. I still think he'll be a pretty memorable Wildcat but I'd feel better about this season if he were adding ten to twelve a game.
Now, at the risk of sounding like a broken record my biggest concern for this team, hands down, has to be three point defense. Temple (Fernandez) did it to us last year and last night they ended up with ten threes to our five. The last five minutes of the first half Nova looked like the Washington Generals with Temple draining threes as if they were lay-ups. As has been the way for several years now the defense locked down a bit more in the second half but eventually that kind of play will come back to haunt us.
I think I may still be spoiled by the defense of the Final Four team two years ago I can't recall ever seeing a team play that kind of lock-down D before and I know I continue to compare this team to that one. It's not fair, especially because this year's team continues to hover around the top twenty in defense. Still, i'm just not sure it will be enough when we get into February and March.
While this team has a long way to go some more consistently difficult opponents (and yes, some more losses) should actually serve this team well. Some of the brain trust at ESPN still put the Cats as a dark horse to win the Big East. Dark horse indeed, but certainly still in the hunt.