Game ended approximately 8:59 PM eastern time. Villanova Wildcats defeat Louisville Cardinals 88-74. Some notes on the game are below.
-For the second straight game, Villanova let their opponent race out to an early lead. Louisville put up the first 7 points of the game on the heels of 3 Villanova turnovers, but the Wildcats quickly responded with a 7 spot of their own.
-Nova tried to use their 1-2-2 press against the Cardinals, but the visitors broke it easily most times, which left Louisville shooters wide open behind the three point arc. As a result, Lousville extended their lead to 7 once again.
-Villanova erased the deficit by the ten minute mark, and the frenetic pace continued throughout the first half, with each team pushing the envelope whenever possible. For each shot that Chris Smith, Rakeem Buckles, and Peyton Siva drained from deep, there was an answer from Corey Stokes or Corey Fisher, who were both in double figures by halftime.
-Halftime score: Villanova 42 Louisville 41
More on the game after the jump...
-The halftime break was definitely needed for both teams, because the pace certainly did not slow down to open the second half. Louisville knocked down some more 3 pointers, but they did miss a couple of mid-range jumpers, while Villanova was not missing from anywhere, especially Corey Stokes. With thirteen minutes remaining in the contest, the Wildcats had amassed a 59-50 advantage.
-A mini spurt by the road squad cut the deficit to 5, but some nice interior play by Mouphtaou Yarou coupled with the driving ability of Fisher and Maalik Wayns aided in re-establishing a comfortable lead of 13 with less than 10 mins. left.
-Just like they did on Sunday against Cincinnati, Villanova had another chance to bury a team in the second half. Three days ago, they let Cincy hang around, but this time, the good guys put the nail in the coffin. Villanova finally played a little defense on the Cardinals shooters, which translated into some easy transition opportunities for Fisher and Wayns. In addition, Yarou could not be stopped down low, and he demanded the ball late in the game, usually a rarity for Villanova big men in the past. In the end, the Cats went on to notch their 15th victory of the year.
-In terms of statistics, Corey Stokes had a team-high 23 points, including 9-9 from the charity stripe. Mouphtaou Yarou put up a double-double with 18 points and 12 boards. The true guards had a solid night as well, as Fisher scored 17 to go along with 8 rebounds, and Wayns had 15 points and 8 dimes. Villanova doubled up Louisville on the glass. For the Cardinals, the trio of Preston Knowles, Peyton Siva, and Chris Smith had stellar performances. Knowles drilled 6 threes, which contributed to his game-high 24 points, while Siva had 14 points and 8 assists, and Smith scored 18.
- The first half was one of the worse defensive halves of basketball I've ever seen from a Villanova team, and that falls partly on the shoulders of Jay Wright. As mentioned earlier, the Cards seemed to blow right through the Nova press, which had the Wildcat players scrambling to find open shooters. More often than not, Louisville had a wide open player on the outside, who eventually sank a three ball. Jay should've abandoned the press to let Villanova drop back and match up against their guys.
- Two players on opposite sides of the spectrum for Villanova were Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou. To put it nicely, Pena played a horrific game, with numerous turnovers and defensive lapses. On the other hand, Yarou had his best game of the year, truly dominating the paint at both ends of the floor.
- I know I've said this before, but if Kemba Walker ever comes back down to Earth, Corey Stokes would be the leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year.
- There's no doubt that this is a big win. Lousville is going to win its fair share of games this year if they can get better on the defensive end. With very difficult road games coming up next week in Storrs, CT and Syracuse, NY, it was important to stay undefeated in conference tonight. Maryland is no cake walk on Saturday either.