Trying not to limp when he finally walked onto the court, the team’s courageous 6-foot-9-inch, 250 pound center was greeted by a roar that shook building. He hit his first two shots, detonating other roars that shook the opposing team. That happened 41 years ago when the Knicks’ Willis Reed, suffering from a leg injury, inspired his Knicks team to win game seven of the 1970 NBA Championship series. The story would turn out a bit differently tonight for 'Nova's injured 6-foot-9-inch, 250 pound center, Mouph Yarou, and his beleaguered Wildcat team.
The bad news started early for the ‘Nova fans when we learned that Mouph Yarou sprained his ankle in practice. The news got even worse as the Cats (6-5) were thoroughly outplayed, outhustled, out-toughed and embarrassed, 58-74, by a young St. Joe’s team (8-3) playing before a raucous 3,000-strong home crowd at Hagan Arena.
Mouph gave it his best, but was severely hobbled. He played only 11 minutes, scoring 2 points and grabbing 3 rebounds for the game. Maalik Wayns led the Cats (19 points, 4 assists, 0 turnovers), but shot only 39% from the field, including 1-7 from three-point range. As bad as Maalik shot, the rest of the team shot even worse –31%. The Cats have been an atrocious three point shooting team all season, yet stubbornly feature the long ball in their offensive scheme, taking 43% of their shots from behind the arc in this one. They hit only 5 of 27 (18.5%).
Anatomy of A Loss
Without Mouph, ‘Nova was vulnerable inside, and outrebounded 36-28 despite a size advantage and some encouraging play by Markus Kennedy (8 points, 7 rebounds including 5 offensive).
St. Joe’s pumped up their already amped fans with numerous highlight plays, including several alley-oop and fast-break dunks. Saint Joseph’s exploited the Mouph-less Cats with six slam dunks in the second half alone, several by the Hawk’s 6-9 forward C.J. Aiken. "They're playing with confidence - they're throwing up alley-oops to their guys and we're missing layups," said Villanova coach Jay Wright. "But we'll get there." Aiken, who is the NCAA’s leading shot blocker, also swatted four ‘Nova shots during the game.
Like so many games this season, the Cats kept it close for the first half, but faltered in the second half. The Hawks built their 30-27 halftime lead up to 44-31 with just over 15 minutes left. They went up 13 points 60-47, after a behind-the-back assist from Jones to Aiken for a one-handed slam dunk, erupting the St. Joe's crowd.
All is not lost, however. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 63 days, 7 hours and six minutes.
Next up for the Cats is American at the Pavilion on Thursday. Oy vey!
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The Closest to the Pin results are now posted.