Happy Monday Nova Nation! Last night saw the return of Ashley Howard to the Pavilion, and it was great to see the former assistant back on campus. Jay Wright couldn’t have been more complimentary of his now crosstown opponent, but it was also clear that he wanted the win badly. He got it, as Villanova used a big first half to beat the Explorers 83-72. That said, there were some big changes for the Wildcats in last night game and some other things worth noting before Wednesday’s matchup with Penn.
Switching Up The Starters
For the first time all year we had a change in Villanova’s starting lineup. Sophomore Cole Swider got the nod over freshman Justin Moore, and according to sources the reason was to get more experience into the starting lineup. That’s been Wright’s go to move since forever (experience over youth), and it worked in his favor again... kind of.
Justin Moore responded with a 25 point outburst off the bench, adding 3 assists and 5 steals in 31 minutes. Coming off the bench didn’t cost him any minutes, and he was absolutely the spark off the bench that Nova needed after a slow start. I really like Moore coming off the bench, as he fits that mold of the energy guy on both ends like Donte DiVincenzo and Phil Booth before him.
However, I can’t say the same for moving Cole Swider into the starting lineup. Don’t get me wrong, he should be playing big minutes and is an asset to the team. That said, his defense is still his greatest weakness, and La Salle took advantage of that. With about 14 minutes left in the game, Swider had already racked up 4 fouls and was struggling to stay in front of his man. When that happens on top of a quiet (yet efficient, 2-2 for 5 points) night offensively, it’s no surprise Wright kept him on the bench for most of the night.
I think the long term addition to the starting lineup will end up being Bryan Antoine, who had 2 points, an assist, and a steal in 12 minutes. But given the intentional ramp-up he’ll be going through this month, it’s not going to happen before Big East play. We’ll see if Wright switches back to Moore or sticks with Swider for now, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last shift in the five starters.
Saddiq Bey’s Double-Double
Saddiq Bey hasn’t shown the raw upside of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl or gotten the level of debate of Collin Gillespie, but he’s still been one of the most important and consistent players for Villanova this season. He put up a double-double on Sunday with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including 2 assists and 3 blocks.
On a team that’s filled with guys that are a little more specialized in certain skills, Bey seems to be pretty good at everything. He’s second in scoring behind Gillespie, second in rebounding behind Robinson-Earl, and second in three-point shooting behind Swider. While some players seem to have peaks and valleys, Bey looks like one of the more consistent players on this team. Consistency is something this team needs a lot more of, so I would expect Bey to continue to see over 30 minutes per game for the rest of the year.
Let’s start with the positive news, which is that Villanova was able to turnover La Salle a season high 18 times. That’s great considering Nova didn’t even get half that many turnovers in either of their previous two games. The bad news is that the Wildcats turned the ball over themselves 20 times, also a season high. It’s a big reason why La Salle won the second half by 9 points, and continues to be the biggest issue facing Villanova this season.
One of the biggest perpetrators continues to be Jermaine Samuels. The junior has become much more involved as a facilitator this season, as was evidence by another game leading the team in assists (5 vs La Salle). However, those 5 assists came with 5 turnovers. That ratio needs to improve if Samuels is to become an efficient initiator of the offense.
The player that leads the team in turnovers is freshman big man Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. For all the great aspects of Robinson-Earl’s game, he tends to be a little loose with the ball in the paint. Sometimes it’s a lack of awareness with the ball from trailing defenders. Other times he’s trying to fight through too many defenders to get to the basket. The good news is a lot of these issues get fixed over time with experience playing at this level. The bad news is that he probably on has another 30 or so games at this level, so he’s going to have to learn quickly.
Overall Villanova is trending the right direction. There’s a lot of things to like about this team, and we haven’t even seen them play to their full potential yet. That said they need to keep progressing, something that’s difficult to do through December when holidays and breaks can take focus away from the court.
In other “news”, all the recaps of Villanova vs La Salle, Villanova Football loses on a questionable call, and Eric Paschall is fueled by his family. Enjoy!
Villanova Men’s Basketball
Moore, No. 22 Villanova ride big first half past La Salle | USA Today
Justin Moore had 25 points off the bench, Saddiq Bey scored 19 and No. 22 Villanova beat La Salle 83-72
Justin Moore comes through in Big 5 debut for Villanova | Delcotimes.com
RADNOR — Justin Moore doesn’t know anything about the Big 5.
Justin Moore scores 25 points in No. 22 Villanova's win over La Salle | NBC Sports Philadelphia
Justin Moore led Villanova with 25 points Sunday night in the 22nd-ranked Wildcats' 83-72 win over La Salle.
Villanova welcomes back Ashley Howard, opens Big 5 play vs. La Salle | dailylocal.com
After a week off, its back to work for No. 22 Villanova when the Wildcats kick off their Big 5 campaign against La Salle Sunday evening (6:30) at the Finneran
No. 22 Villanova keeps La Salle from completing comeback | The Journal Pioneer
Freshman Justin Moore had 25 points and five steals, Saddiq Bey added 19 points and 10 rebounds and No. 22 Villanova defeated Big 5 rival La Salle 83-72 Sunday on the Main Line in Philadelphia. Collin Gillespie scored 14 points and Jeremiah
Big First Half Helps Lift Wildcats Past La Salle 83-72 | Villanova University Athletics
Villanova built a 20-point halftime lead and then held off La Salle in the second half Sunday night.
How family values help fuel Warriors’ surprising rookie Eric Paschall | SFChronicle.com
In an era rife with 19-year-old millionaires struggling to navigate life in the NBA, Eric Paschall is a 23-year-old college graduate who has thrived as the face of the Golden State Warriors’ mini rebuild.
Villanova falls just short in FCS playoff shootout | Pottsmerc.com
For the third time in the last six games, Villanova squandered a double-digit halftime lead. This time it brought the Wildcats’ season to a close.
FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Southeastern Louisiana Outlasts Villanova 45-44 in Playoff Classic | The College Sports Journal
When the bracket was released last Sunday, many fans pointed to the Villanova/Southeastern Louisiana as the most potentially entertaining game and the one most likely to see a lot of scoring. The two teams did not disappoint, scoring a total of 89 points in a 45-44 Lion win that went down to the very last minutes of the game.
Wildcats See Season End in 45-44 Loss to Southeastern Louisiana in First Round of Playoffs | Villanova University Athletics
HAMMOND, La.—A back-and-forth game came down to each team's final score in the fourth quarter and No. 8 Villanova (9-4) saw its season come to an end in a 45-44
Cowan, Morsell, No. 5 Maryland bottle up Howard, Marquette | The Washington Post
Howard scored a combined 91 points in his first two games of the eight-team tournament at Disney World. However, Marquette’s all-time scoring leader was just 1 of 12 from the field in this one, including 0 for 6 on 3-point attempts.