As it turns out, playing a 'home' game just a few miles away from your opponent's campus isn't the best idea. Christening the new PPL Center in Allentown, Pa., Villanova escaped Lehigh 77-66 on Friday night in a game that felt eerily familiar to fans.
Jay Wright can take solace in the fact that his veteran group was able to figure out a way to win, but much tougher opponents are on the horizon and frankly, Villanova won't win if they play like that.
1. Villanova is still very much in love with the three-ball
An 8-33 line (24%) is putrid to begin with, but it was the amount of attempts, especially in the first half that was troubling. 'Nova hoisted 23 shots from beyond the arc in the opening frame, making just 3 of them. It wasn't that they were particularly bad shots either - most of them were wide open - it was just that nobody could make one.
Villanova has enough above-average shooters that this won't happen often, but none other than Kris Jenkins are elite enough shooters that they need to shoot their way through a 3-point slump in a tight game. Darrun Hilliard, (1-9) Dylan Ennis (3-9) and Ryan Arcidiacono (1-7) are good enough players to score in other ways.
2. The 3/4 court press can be devestating
It was Villanova's ability to generate 23 turnovers, and generate them in to quick points, that kept them in the game early and ultimately gave them a lead they wouldn't relinquish. For as poor as Hilliard was offensively he was a menace at the top of the press with four steals.
Ennis, Arcidiacono and Josh Hart were also superb in the second layer of that setup as they consistently jumped passing lanes and started easy fast breaks. Credit Jay Wright a ton too, as he deployed it to speed up the tempo of the game and test Lehigh's depth. They couldn't keep up.
3. In fairness, Lehigh Mountain Hawks is a much better team that they get credit for
The Mountain Hawks lost one of the best players in program history last season in Mackey McKnight and were picked to finish seventh in the Patriot League this season. I'm not a Patriot League expert by any means but other than the need to develop some depth, there's not a lot wrong with that team.
Sophomore Austin Price is clearly ready to step in to the leading man role while Tim Kempton showed he's capable of competing against high-major talent as well. And true freshman Kahron Ross is more than capable of running the show, even if his inxperience got him in to foul trouble.
This isn't a win any borderline Top 10 team should brag about, but similar to Delaware last year, the opponent was much better than we initially scouted them to be.