Villanova lost to the recently struggling Cincinnati Bearcats 68-50 on Tuesday night in a tale of two halves. The Wildcats scored 29 points in the first half, but the true difference in the game was 3-point shooting. The Bearcats hit 12 out of 25 shots from range. The Wildcats? 3 out of 13. Cincinnati was led by Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker, who combined for a 7 of 13 shooting performance from the 3-point line, many of them from well beyond 20 feet and 9 inches.
In the second half, we were treated to Cincinnati's 19-6 run during the first 12 minutes. When the buzzer sounded, we only scored 21 points in the second half, turning the ball over 12 times in the last 20 minutes.
The Wildcats were led by JayVaughn Pinkston (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Mouphtaou Yarou (10 points, 5 rebounds), though Mouph shot an unflattering 30% from the field. Hilliard couldn't continue his hot streak, ending with just 5 points. It was clear that he didn't feel his shooter's touch, as he was hesitant to put up jump shots and resorted instead to exaggerated pump fakes.
Cincinatti's pressure defense had Nova in fits. It took all our effort just to avoid turning the ball over, and even so we coughed up 19 turnovers. There really was no offense because we were back on our heels, and that's a result of our young team. None of our guards have a lot of experience playing against a tough, Big East defense, and it showed tonight.
Nova's youngest guard, Ryan Arcidiacono, had both bright and dull moments in this game. He managed to give out 5 assists while only turning the ball over twice against a high-pressure Cincy defense. Most importantly, he's expanding his game to inside the 3-point line, which is making his assist numbers rise for two reasons: he's drawing defenders and opening up teammates, and he's having an easier time reaching teammates in scoring positions when it's from the paint.
But overall, there wasn't a lot to be happy about in this game. Nobody stepped up and took control on offense, and our pick-and-roll play continues to hurt us more than it helps. This team that relies on foul shots for their points only had 15 free throw attempts, hitting just 7 of them.
I seem to have an uncanny ability to choose the worst games to cover. So I'll take the blame on this one, sorry guys. If anyone has any superstitious habits to suggest, I'm all ears. I'm covering the Seton Hall game on the 25th - we can't lose that one too, right?
Tuesday's game seemed like an off-night for the Wildcats. This team is still learning how to play consistently, how to finish games, and how to play as a team. Hopefully Jay uses this as a wake-up call for the group. The Cats look to right the ship at UConn on Saturday.