Not much has gone right for the Villanova Wildcats this year. Today, at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati, one of the best individual displays in Villanova history was showcased, but unfortunately, it occurred in a losing effort. Maalik Wayns, the junior guard from Philly, poured in 39 points and also notched 13 rebounds and 6 assists in a 82-78 loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats. Dominic Cheek was the lone compliment to Wayns' offensive prowess, as he chipped in 19 points, including 5 threes. For the opponents, Dion Dixon scored 22 points, while big man Yancy Gates contributed 16 points and 9 boards. As a team, the Bearcats stole the ball 10 times from the Cats.
The entire game saw very little defense played, but the first half truly was all about runs. Villanova jumped out to a 16-6 lead, only to have Cincy respond with a 22-5 sprint to put the home squad up 7 ten minutes in. Wayns and Cheek led the Nova counter-punch, as they closed the half out with a 24-12 run to put the Wildcats up 45-40 at intermission.
More after The Jump.
After the offensive fireworks of the first half, the tempo slowed down somewhat to open the second stanza. The Bearcats quickly got the game down to 1 possession five minutes in, and from there on out, the contest became a seesaw affair. With the game tied at 68 and five minutes remaining, Wayns began to ran out of gas, which allowed Cincy to open up a 5 point advantage. With no one else contributing offensively down the stretch, Maalik desperately tried to will Nova to a victory, but Cincinnati hit their free throws late to ice the game away.
As a team, what really hurt the Cats today was the turnover differential. Villanova amassed 16 turnovers, while the more experienced Bearcats only had 3. Unfortunately, most of the Nova turnovers led to easy buckets for the opposition. It's one thing to turn it over, then get back and play solid defense, when the mistakes lead to lay ups, the momentum really shifts. Besides Wayns, there are no other ballhandlers on the team who you can really count on at this point in the season. You could really see the fatigue late in the game for Maalik and handling the ball virtually the entire game does not help the cause.
It certainly sucks to fall to 1-5 in the Big East, but Wayns was an absolute stud today. He simply could not be stopped, whether it was from outside the arc, in transition, or slicing and dicing in the halfcourt set. Watching his performance unfold reminded me so much of Scottie's 40 point barrage at UConn from a few years ago. Fortunately for Scottie, he had a little more supporting cast that game to notch a win, but each of their showings were remarkable. It's too bad this effort didn't come in a win first and foremost, but for Wayns personally, it would've been nice if he were playing a top 10 or 15 team, since you could guarantee NBA scouts would be in attendance. Also, an FYI if you didn't see the game, Maalik had a SportsCenter top 10 no doubter with a thunderous posterization dunk in transition in the second half.
Villanova's next game comes in the form of the much improved Seton Hall Pirates on Wednesday night at the Pavilion.