Two games into the 2013 Big East season, and we've seen 2 different approaches from this Villanova Wildcats basketball team. Against St. John's, the 'Cats were forced to play a run-and-gun game where they relied on the offense of Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston en route to a 98-86 OT thriller. Last night was a completely different approach against USF, with a focus on pounding the ball inside against an undersized opponent. The result remained the same however, with 'Nova coming out on top 61-53.
The common denominator in those two wins though, was the execution of a well-though out gameplan. While it took a half to adjust the strategy against the Johnnies, Jay Wright drew up a beauty prior to the opening tip versus USF. Seeing a Bulls team sorely missing the inside presence of Gus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr., Wright opted to insert Daniel Ochefu into the starting lineup with Mouphtaou Yarou.
Jordan Omogbehin may be 7'3" and 330 pounds, and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick is an experienced player, but they were no match for the Wildcats' frontcourt. Yarou, operating in the high post for most of the evening, dominated play from start to finish en route to a final line of 16 points and 14 rebounds - the type of game Wildcats fans have expected from Yarou for 4 years.
Daniel Ochefu was no slouch himself in his starting debut, posting 10 points and 5 rebounds by halftime and finishing with 12 and 8. And let's not forget JayVaughn Pinkston, who continues to thrive in the 6th man role. Playing just 18 minutes, Pinkston went 5-8 from the floor as he manhandled any Bull who dared to try and stop him.
Every good gameplan needs a floor general, and the young freshman displayed his maturity on Wednesday night. Arch, coming off a career-high 32 points against St. John's, could have gotten an itchy trigger finger, but instead opted to stick to the plan. And while his final line of 5 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 turnover was modest at best, his ownership of the offense permeated a calmness throughout the rest of the team in a steady performance. The team posted a final assist-turnover ratio of 14-11 - something previously unseen this season
While the bigs dominated down low, the likes of Darrun Hilliard (1-7 FG), James Bell (1-5 FG), Tony Chennault (0-3) and Arcidiacono (2-5 FG) were unable to generate much offense from the backcourt. No worries though, as the guards complemented the frontline well on the defensive end as they completely smothered the Bulls' meager offense.
In fairness, Shaun Noriega was out with a foot injury and Victor Rudd may have been battling some flu-like symptoms, but the Wildcats did a good job of limiting Anthony Collins, who made their defense look like swiss cheese last season. The help defense was active but not overaggressive and though Arch struggled at times to keep up with Collins (a major worry with Brandon Triche and Peyton Siva coming up in 3 of the next 5 outings), the Wildcats dominated the glass from start to finish, effectively ending any hope for a Bulls' victory early.
So while this team likely will only go as far as key players like JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono take them, they are beginning to show some versatility in the way that they plan and execute a gameplan against their opponents. With the Syracuse Orange on deck this weekend, Jay Wright is going to need to make sure he has another plan of attack ready to go - because it appears his players are willing and able to execute whatever he throws at them.