While Akron was able push the Cats early on, taking advantage of their length and the play making ability of star guard Antino Jackson, Villanova was able to pull away for victory 75-56. And even though as a team the Wildcats had their worst shooting night of the young season, they were still able to outperform Akron in each of the Four Factors.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)
Offense: Game - 47%, Year Avg - 54.6%, Last Year Avg - 55.3%
You know you have a good offensive team when a "poor" shooting night still results in 75 points. While Phil Booth was held scoreless, going 0-2 from the field, it was Ochefu and his 2-8 night that was the biggest factor in the low eFG%. Akron made it a point not to let the double-double machine be the one to beat them, often doubling Chef whenever he got the ball down low. While he wasn't scoring from the post, he was frequently kicking out of the double team to open shooters and slashers for open shots. It's just another example of how the Villanova offense is like the mythical Hydra. Cut off one of its heads and 2 more grow in its place.
Defense: Game - 44.9%, Year Avg - 39%, Last Year Avg - 45.5%
While Akron got off to a hot start, especially from behind the arc, Villanova's defense was able to wear down the Zips' shooters as the game wore on. Ochefu shut down senior center Pat Forsythe, who went 0-6 from the field. Star guard Antonio Jackson gave up an uncharacteristic 8 turnovers and was limited by early foul trouble. By the end of the night Akron was forced to take contested shots from three point land, and were held under 40% shooting inside the arc. It was the Cats' 4th straight game holding their opponent under last year's 45.5% eFG% average.
Turnover Percentage (TO%)
Offense: Game - 10.4%, Year Avg - 14.5%, Last Year Avg - 16.3%
Ryan Arcidiacono is having a phenomenal senior campaign, and no stat epitomizes that more that his lack of turnovers. On Sunday Arch had his third game of the season without a turnover, and has only coughed up the ball once all season. He must be teaching his Kung Fu grip on the ball to his teammates, because only three Wildcats recorded a turnover against the Zips. If Villanova can keep their turnovers in the single digits this season they should be able to dictate the pace and style of play in every game.
Defense: Game - 23.9%, Year Avg - 24.1%, Last Year Avg - 21.6%
The Wildcats are creating an average of 17 turnovers per game this season. The two biggest factors in creating these turnovers are Villanova's 1-2-2 press and a swarming, half-court help defense. As great as the starters are on defense, Jay credited Mikal Bridges (4 rebounds, 3 steals) and Phil Booth (5 rebounds, 2 blocks) with taking the team to another level defensively.
In the 1-2-2 press, Bridges' length and speed are the perfect combination for not just slowing the opposition, but often causing errant or tipped passes that lead to turnovers. In the half court, Booth has been an excellent perimeter defender. His agility and quickness allows him to get up into defenders and stay with them off their first step. Throw in Donte DiVincenzo and Darryl Reynolds, and you can see why this year's team looks to grind down teams defensively with their depth.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OR%)
Offense: Game - 37.5%, Year Avg - 36.7%, Last Year Avg - 32.5%
If there's a silver lining in a poor shooting night, it's that the team responded by attacking the offensive glass for second chance opportunities. It's reassuring that Ochefu (4 OR) continued to lead the team in this area, especially on a night where he had to find ways to contribute. Offensive rebounding was still an impressive team effort, as all of the Cats except Arch and Jalen Brunson were able to bring down an offensive board. Against a team with superior length and size, that shows how Villanova isn't just boxing out, but really attacking the ball.
Defense: Game - 31%, Year Avg - 31%, Last Year Avg - 31.2%
The Wildcats were right on par with their rebounding, which is actually rather impressive against a taller, athletic Akron unit. While Ochefu only had 3 defensive rebounds, a closer look at the tape shows that he was knocking potential offensive rebounds away from the Zips so that the rest of the Wildcats could pull down the rebounds. Hart added to his great night with 6 defensive rebounds, while Arch and Booth added 5 and 4 respectively. Jay puts a premium on rebounding, so when facing larger line-ups expect to see more "team rebounding", especially from the guards.
Free Throw Rate (FTRate)
Offense: Game - 23.9%, Year Avg - 27.9%, Last Year Avg - 41.8
Villanova's FTRate average continues to fall, but there are signs that a rebound could be on the way. The Cats increased their trips to the line by 33% over the ETSU game, with six Wildcats finding their way to the charity stripe. Arcidiacono continues to do whatever is needed to win, posting a FTRate of 100% for the game. But we may just need to face the fact that losing long, athletic players like Pinkston, Hilliard, and Ennis was going to end this trend, at least in the early going. Without their collective ability to drive to the basket, we should have expected a decrease in free throw opportunities.
Defense: Game - 16.9%, Year Avg - 22.3%, Last Year Average - 30.4%
Sunday was the first time this season multiple Wildcats got into foul trouble early in the 2nd half. But even though three Cats finished with three or more fouls, Akron only had 10 free throw attempts on the game. This tells me that not only is Villanova doing a good job of staying out of the bonus, but they're also doing a good job at forcing opponents to alter their shots instead of fouling. This is just another result of the help defense in the paint we've been touching on all year long. This success should continue into conference play because it's based on player poise and scheme, not just weaker opponents.
Looking Forward: Stanford
Villanova will play their first "neutral" court game as they face Stanford on Thanksgiving Day in the semi-finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Cardinal are coming off a two game losing streak and will look to bounce back in Brooklyn. On offense, Villanova is projected to win three of the Four Factors, falling short in FTRate. Stanford struggles with their defensive eFG%, so the Cats could have an opportunity to put up a lot of points on Thursday.
On defense, the Cats are again projected to win three of the Four Factors, with Stanford fairing better in OR%. Villanova should have their biggest advantage in creating turnovers, but they'll need to be careful not to foul as Stanford is ranked 27th nationally in getting to the line.