Let’s face it. Even VU Hoops readers, arguably the most ardent ‘Nova basketball fans on the planet, could not get excited about this one. With final exams behind them, most of the Villanova’s students abandoned the Cats, bolting from campus on Thursday with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Against this backdrop, the Cats took on an uninspiring opponent in front of 12,000 lackadaisical fans at the Wells Fargo Center. Jay Wright later thanked the band and cheerleaders for deferring their trips home and making some noise during the game. To make matters worse, temperatures inside the arena were frigid, the after-effect of a Flyers game played that afternoon. ‘Nova players were seen blowing warm breath into their hands at the free throw line.
Clearly, we can all be thankful that in the end, the #10 Cats were able to check the box in the win column, snapping the Blue Hens’ five-game winning streak and improving to 9-1. There also were some notable developments for ‘Nova fans to contemplate as they huddle by the fireplace to escape the cold weather gripping the northeast.
- James Bell had his coming out party, providing a much-needed spark mid-way through the first half with the Cats up by only a bucket. Bell scored 10 points going 3-4 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc and grabbed 5 rebounds in only 17 minutes of play. Bell would say after the game, "[a]t first, when I came back, it was just getting my legs under me. Now it's just focusing on going hard the whole time I'm out there." Jay Wright added, "[w]hat's really amazing is that [James] has not done anything since June. He's still got a lot to learn and get his rhythm back."
- Corey Fisher (21 points) and Maalik Wayns (14 points) are showing signs of regaining their shooting strokes, going 7-13 (2-5 3P) and 4-8 (2-4 3P), respectively. The two combined for a 14-0 second half run six minutes into the second half that was a thing of beauty to behold.
- Team rebounding continues to show improvement over last year, with the Cats outrebounding the Blue Hens 34-24. Four players shared the team honors for the game with five rebounds each – Bell, Fisher, Stokes, and Yarou.
- Mild-mannered Mouph Yarou showed the capacity for anger, picking up a technical foul mid-way through the second half in frustration from being pushed and hacked all night. Mouph was caught intentionally stepping on Delaware’s Brian Johnson, who lay sprawled on the floor under the basket. Jay Wright benched him for the final 11 minutes of the game, saying afterwards, "[The Delaware players] kept [talking trash to] Mouph; he's young and he got worked up. He got upset with getting fouled, and you can't do that."
- 'Nova's defense was solid, holding Delaware to 33.3 percent shooting and holding Jawan Carter to 2 -11 from the field.
- The Cats were sloppy with the ball, turning it over 17 times vs. only 9 assists
- Personal fouls remain under control and much improved over last season, with 17 team fouls in this contest. Only Maalik Wayns was in a bit of trouble with 4 fouls.
- Jay also was quoted saying what many of us are thinking: "I don't think we're as good as our ranking - I really don't - but I think we'll get there."
The Cats now must try to avoid slipping into a coma as they contemplate their next trial, visiting the formidable Monmouth Hawks, who sport a 4-7 record and a 283 RPI, on December 22.
Closest to the Pin: the results are now posted. Click here to see the updated leader board.