In the semifinals of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, CA, the Villanova Wildcats lost to the St. Louis Billikens 80-68. In turn, Nova drops to 4-1 on the young season, while Rick Majerus' St. Louis squad improves to 5-0. Maalik Wayns led Villanova with 29 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, and James Bell and Mouphtaou Yarou contributed 16 and 8 points, respectively.
The Cats came out of the gates strong, as they jumped out to a quick 13-5 lead five minutes into the contest. Powered by the offensive prowess of Wayns, the advantage was extended to 26-16 halfway through the opening stanza, but it all went downhill after that. With Yarou sidelined by foul trouble and Villanova unable to guard the 3 point shot, St. Louis caught fire from deep and the Billikens owned a 4 point lead at intermission.
More after the jump...
Whatever Jay Wright said at halftime to counter the perimeter shooting of St. Louis did not work, because the opponents started the second half drilling a few triples in a row. As a result, the Billikens lead quickly ballooned to double digits. Villanova was able to cut the lead to 8 points once or twice in the second half, but St. Louis responded each time. Overall, St. Louis hit 14-27 from downtown, good for a 52% clip. On the flip side, Villanova only shot 33% from behind the arc on 5-15 shooting. Besides the 3 pointers, the rest of the stats were essentially even.
Not to mention the obvious, but Villanova has a lot of work to do on the defensive end, which isn't surprising for such a young squad. Unfortunately, today's game looked all too familiar from Nova teams of recent memory in terms of defending the 3 ball.
Dominic Cheek and JayVaughn Pinkston should assume some of the blame for this one as well, because their lack of productivity killed the Cats. They combined to manage a meager 9 points on 3-13 shooting. Simply put, this team has virtually zero chance to win with numbers like that. Props to James Bell though, who seems confident and poised at all times. The development of a consistent outside shot from him has been a welcome sight.
Next up, Villanova will play in the 3rd place game of the tournament against either Santa Clara or Oklahoma on Sunday night.