I'm sure all Villanova Wildcats fans, like myself, are still savoring yesterday's 83-72 win over the Syracuse Orange at the 2nd largest on-campus crowd in NCAA history (Villanova has now been a part of the Top-3 ever). (box score)
I was under the opinion that this team would walk into that arena, put up a valiant effort, but ultimately fall short. Heck, after last year's disaster in The Dome, how could you think otherwise? Especially after we've been hearing that this Syracuse defense and this Syracuse attack was better than before.
Boy was I wrong.
I need to remind myself that I've been the guy praising the fight and the resolve of this team all season. I'm the guy that says they are never out of a game, that they've got the killer instinct that was absent last season. And I'm now about to doubt that they can win a tough road game?
No more. Not after Maalik Wayns rose to the occasion with 21 points and some unconscious shooting. Not after Corey Fisher (16 points, 7 assists), Corey Stokes (16 points) and Pena recorded their 3rd win in this building - the most of any team in the conference. Not after Maurice Sutton played the best game of his career under the brightest of lights. Not after Dominic Cheek scrapped through an injury to provide anything he could.
Yep, this team can go places. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly after The Jump.
Big Mo - Be honest, when Mo was getting more burn than Isaiah Armwood, you were thinking, "what the f***?!" Yeah, I was too. But Mo killed it yesterday. He came up with 8 huge points, some great rebounds, and most importantly, incredible defense when asked to guard Kris Joseph. The national media won't talk about him, but we will.
Free throws - 22 out of 24 for the game (damnit Sutton & Yarou!). As Fact said in the postgame comments, that is unconscious shooting. Especially with 33,000+ lunatics screaming at you. THAT is the kind of quality that guarantees wins.
Maalik Wayns - He started off the game 3-3 from downtown. And frankly, all of those shots were NO NO NO NO...YES YES YES!! types of shots. As I watched the game with my roommate, I kept telling him with each made three that this just wasn't normal. Where did the team eat? Did they spike the pasta with some 3-point barrage seasoning?
Antonio Pena - 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists. That would be your zone-busting big man. We said before the game we weren't going to win without a good game from Pena. We got more than a good game. We got a phenomenal game.
The gameplan - I think if we wanted to, we could have run with Syracuse. We aren't a big hulking team. We can get out and play fast. Was that the best option? Clearly not, and credit Jay Wright and the coaches for drilling it into our minds not to run. We had like 4 fast-break points the entire game. There were at least 6 times I counted that we got a steal, could have run, and just held up and walked it up court. Genius.
Team Defense - For a while I was thinking, is Syracuse that bad or are we that good? Not even a question, we are that good. If they are knocking down those 3's, this is a rout. Our 'D' hasn't been this good since Dante Cunningham graduated.
Early in the 2nd half - Everyone who was following this game knew Syracuse was going to make a run to start the half. And for the most part, we weathered it pretty well. But there were a brief few possessions where we deviated from the plan and chucked up bad shots early in the clock. I have a very difficult time thinking Jay Wright didn't talk about this at the half, so it seems like the players got caught up in the moment and lost focus.
Then again, that's all I'm complaining about. What a day.
Scoop Jardine - Never mind the "we should've won" comment. Just check out Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician today if you have a chance. Look through the game thread comments. Look at their recap today. Scoop's new name is Poop.
What a win. Savor it for the rest of the weekend. On Wednesday, we've got to deal with Providence, who just upset Louisville at The Dunk. They are dangerous, and just because they win once every 18 games in this conference does not mean they can't beat us. Focus, focus, focus.
I love this team.