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Villanova Basketball Four Factors: Purdue

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3-Pointers? We don’t need no stinkin’ 3-pointers!

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

This game was supposed to be a test for the Wildcats. It was supposed to tell us above all else if this smaller team could handle larger opponents. And yet in perusing the comments after tonight’s game, there are many fans who feel we don’t have that answer. I won’t name names, but suffice it to say that people saw how easily Purdue scored in the paint in the final minute, and their reaction is that this team will not be able to compete with bigger teams down the road.

And to that I have to say, what were you watching the first 39 minutes of this game?

I saw a team that played intense pressure defense on the perimeter and in the post. I saw a team that was within 3 rebounds of one of the best rebounding teams in the country, despite not playing two of their three tallest players. I saw a team that outscored PURDUE in the paint! I saw clutch free throws negate any easy buckets the opponent may have gotten.

When did this happen? The second game of the season.

Where did it happen? On the road in front of a raucous sell-out crowd.

What was the outcome? Victory.

I don’t know what type of Phi-Slama-Jama front-court fans think Nova will face down the road, but here’s what I do know: Nova just beat arguably the best front court in college basketball in a hostile road environment while still getting their defensive chemistry together. If there was ever a time for them to fold under the pressure, this was it. But they didn’t. They found a way to win. And because I’m super good at segues, I’ll bet you the Four Factors will tell us how they did it.

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) - Purdue wins by 1.6%

Offense: Game - 54.5%, Season - 57.7%, Last Year - 56.1%

I don’t think I’ve ever been so wrong about an offensive strategy then I was in this game. Whether it was the original plan or if Jay just made the in game adjustment, I would never have guessed that Josh Hart and the rest of the Wildcats would have attacked the basket the way they did. Not only did they score 40 points in the paint, but they took just 30% of their shots from behind the arc. That’s less than half the number of 3’s they took on Friday against Lafayette.

Now Villanova couldn’t score in the paint the same way that Purdue did. That’s because Purdue didn’t have Josh Hart. Against a team that was built to defend the rim, Villanova spaced the floor to give Mr. Hart some driving lanes and he dropped the hammer to the tune of 24 points. Darryl Reynolds also came up big in the paint, with 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting. The Wildcats shot over 51% from inside the arc, continuing to prove that they’re not JUST a three point shooting team. That being said, they did shoot over 41% from deep.

The only cog in the offensive machine that seemed to be out of place tonight was Kris Jenkins. While he had his moments, specifically when he was able to drive or step into his shot, he looked flatfooted while taking ill-advised shots that often came up short. His final shooting night was 3 of 12, including 1 of 6 from deep. This looks a lot more like “first half” Jenkins from last season that would force shots regardless of offesnive flow, as opposed to “second half” Jenkins that always seemed to make the right move at the right time. This could just be that the season is less than a week old, and being a senior I expect him to find his groove quicker than he did last year. Still, it’s something to watch when your #2 returning scorer is shooting a combined 9-26 from the field through two games.

Defense: Game - 56.1%, Season - 44.3%, Last Year - 46.7%

Defensively, despite an excellent effort, Nova couldn’t stop Haas and Swanigan. Both of the Purdue big men scored 20+ points, the vast majority of which came from the paint. That’s not something to hang your head about, these two are GREAT college big men. What Villanova did successfully was deny the paint on enough possessions to force someone other than the two bigs to beat them. 60% of Purdue’s shots came from the rest of the team, and on those shots they went just 12-34 from the field on just 35% shooting.

And that’s how Nova will beat teams this season. You can’t stop really good teams from doing what they want to do on every possession. But this team is athletic and quick enough to force teams to alter what they want to do most of the time. When that happens, Nova’s pressure defense can create poor shots and errant passes, both of which turn into transition offense. Don’t think that a lack of size means that this team can’t dictate what the opposing offense does, because tonight proved that it can.

Turnover Percentage (TO%) - Villanova wins by 5.7%

Offense: Game - 15.4%, Season - 13.2%, Last Year - 16.3%

You never like to see double digit turnovers, and you especially don’t want your point guard to have as many turnovers (4) as he does assists (also 4). In fact any night that EVERY player on the court commits at least one turnover isn’t ideal. Purdue only had 2 steals on the night, so it’s safe to say that far too many of these turnovers were unforced. To make matters worse, the Boilermakers were able to score 12 points off turnovers.

This result is more indicative of the downturn in assisted field goals Villanova has seen so far this year. The Wildcats assisted on just 44% of their made shots in this game, which means too often they were trying to create their own shots instead of passing the ball. That leads to the ball getting “stuck” and allows the defense to collapse on the ball handler. Without swinging the ball around to open shooters, the defense gets a chance to settle in. That can lead to poor shot selection and unforced turnovers. It’s great that the Cats have a player like Josh Hart who can drive the lane and create his own layups. But he can’t do that every game, and the rest of the team will need to move the ball more to prevent an up-tick in turnovers.

Defense: Game - 21.1%, Season - 19.4%, Last Year - 20.6%

Despite some struggles offensively, the Wildcats pressure defense can erase a lot of mistakes in a hurry. Purdue had 15 turnovers that lead to 19 Villanova points, and seven of those turnovers were steals. Villanova’s pressure in transition and their ability to deny the post were creating a lot of problems for Purdue. The Boilermakers just couldn’t hold onto the ball, and it’s a big reason why they lost this game.

The pressure Villanova can apply, especially at the guard position, doesn’t just effect opponents when Nova is on ball. As we saw last night, Purdue was often rushing passes before the Cats could get set. But those rushed passes would more often find the first row than their intended target. So it’s not just the pressure being applied, but the knowledge of how difficult that pressure will be to handle that’s causing turnovers for the Wildcats.

Offensive Rebound Percentage (OR%) - Purdue wins by 5.6%

Offense: Game - 22.5%, Season - 25%, Last Year - 28.2%

When your opponent has, for lack of a better term, two giants patrolling the paint, it’s hard to expect that your team will come away with many offensive rebounds. Enter Darryl Reynolds, giant slayer. Reynolds pulled down a team high 4 offensive rebounds, two of which were put-back slam dunks. As the announcers pointed out, a lot of these opportunities were direct results of Josh Harts ability to drive to the basket and force defenders to shift to him, leaving Reynolds and other Villanova bigs open to attack the boards for 8 second chance points. Expect to continue seeing solid OR% numbers if the Cats keep driving the paint instead of chucking up all their shots from deep.

Defense: Game - 28.1%, Season - 18.5%, Last Year - 29.4%

For a second straight game, Villanova did a great job of “gang rebounding” by crashing the boards from the top of the key and all but nullifying Purdue’s anticipated advantage. All but one of the Wildcats had multiple defensive rebounds, and no one had more than four. It was truly a team effort, and that’s the way the Wildcats are going to win the rebounding battles this season. When they attack rebounds as a team they can overcome their size disadvantage, and through two games they’re doing just that.

Free Throw Rate (FTR) - Villanova wins by 6%

Offense: Game - 39.3%, Season - 27.6%, Last Year - 34.1%

Let’s be honest, this is where Villanova won the game. And when I say Villanova, I mean Josh Hart. The Wildcats had trouble finding their way to the free throw line last year, and nothing indicated that this season would be any different. Then Josh Hart started attacking the paint and the bigger defenders, earning a personal FTR of 64.7%. While Hart missed the first few attempts, the team would go on to shoot over 81% for the game, and that ended up being the difference.

Special credit needs to go to Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson for their performances at the line late in game as well. Both were fouled in the final minutes of the game and were sent to the line for the first time. Bridges went 2-2 and Brunson went 4-4 to negate a late push by Haas and close out the Wildcat victory.

Defense: Game - 33.3%, Season - 21.3%, Last Year - 30%

While many people may think the officiating in this one was “sub-par”, the simple fact was that both teams ended up with 21 fouls. But where Villanova shot well from the charity stripe, Purdue struggled at times, going just 12-19 for 63.2%. That would ultimately be the difference in the game.

Despite fouling out, I think special credit here needs to go to Eric Paschall. He battled with Purdue’s bigs all night, often giving up a significant size advantage. Despite some questionable calls and just 9 minutes on the court, he still was able to make an impact defensively while scoring in double digits.

Looking Ahead: Western Michigan Broncos

Villanova 97% projected winner, 84-64

Offensive Four Factors: Split 2-2 (eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - WM, FTR - WM)

The Broncos actually have decent size in their front court with 7’0” sophomore Seth Dugan and 6’8” freshman Brandon Johnson. But as we saw against Purdue, the Wildcats athleticism and pressure defense has a way of negating that advantage. I expect Josh Hart to run rampant yet again, leading the Villanova offense to its 3rd victory of the season.

Defensive Four Factors: Villanova wins 4-0 (eFG% - Nova, TO% - Nova, OR% - Nova, FTR - Nova)

The Wildcat athletes will just be too much for a Western Michigan team that is shooting just 40% from inside the arc, and an even worse 20% from deep. Averaging over 15 turnovers a game this year, I expect the Broncos’ ball handlers to be shut down by Nova’s pressure defense.