(Apologies for the lateness of this recap - I was in attendance last night and following the loss...well, yeah)
The Villanova Wildcats faced a tough test against a Missouri Tigers team that was ranked #10 in the country in the latest version of the national polls this week. Despite having a new coach in Frank Haith, the Tigers are an experienced bunch and have been putting up some pretty prolific numbers on offense this season.
Things started out brightly for 'Nova for the first 10 minutes of the game, where they hung on to a 21-19 lead as their defense seemed to frustrate Mizzou while their offense continued to sputter a bit. In the final 10 minutes of the first half however, Mizzou was able to pull away by way of their FT shooting, and took a 42-29 lead into the half and things looked pretty bleak for Jay Wright's squad.
More after The Jump.
At halftime, things could have gone a couple of different ways. This young team could have rolled over and taken an absolute beating at the hands of a more talented team. Or they could have continued the fight and made a game out of this.
Much to the delight of 'Nova Nation, they opted for the latter and gave Mizzou one hell of a game in the 2nd half. Despite being down by as much as 16 at various points, Villanova was able to close the gap on Missouri to within 6 a couple of different times late in the game.
Behind strong play from Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston, the Cats were back in the game late and had a couple of open 3's that would have made it a one possession game. Unfortunately, they were not able to come up with the big shot. Some shaky FT shooting by 'Nova didn't help things either.
This is a performance to hang our hat on though. Marcus Denmon was predictably unconscious shooting all night, despite being blanketed for much of the game. It was a throw your hands up kind of performance from Denmon, who finished with 28 points on 10-16 shooting (6-10 3P FG).
All in all, I'm feeling much better about this Villanova team. The attitude they displayed didn't match their execution, which is ultimately what cost them the game, but they're going to need that fight all year, and they proved tonight that they can play with teams that are more talented than they are.
The Temple game on Saturday should be a blood bath, as I've got a feeling this 'Nova team has a renewed sense of confidence about themselves after last night.