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Three takeaways from the Wildcats’ blowout of La Salle

It wasn’t always pretty but this Nova team again proved its toughness and relentlessness.

Saint Mary’s v Villanova Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Villanova was able to avoid consecutive losses again and get back on track in an easy win over La Salle all the while getting back a familiar face. A 26-point win over the Explorers may not seem vital in terms of gauging how far this team can go but every game counts. Every game also offers more insight to what the team excels at and where they can improve.

Dada’s Moment

Firstly, let’s all give Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree a round of applause. He’s a national champion, has played in over 100 games in a Villanova jersey, and is one of the toughest players in recent memory to play for Nova. The ‘Cats very likely don’t beat Texas Tech in the 2018 Elite Eight without him.

Sunday night was impressive. Just like in the Regional Final against the Red Raiders in 2018, Dada was there when his fellow ‘Cats needed him. After four surgeries in the last five years and essentially retiring from college basketball in late September, Dada played five minutes against La Salle. He was able to grab two offensive rebounds and the best part of his night was him scoring in the low post the very first time he touched the ball.

“It was really exciting,” Collin Gillespie said of his teammate. “I’ve seen him in practice the last couple of weeks and he’s been helping our young guys, especially the bigs, get a lot better. He’s just kept a great attitude through the whole thing. We know he’s wanted to play but his role had just changed but his status was the same. He was bringing a great attitude and helping our team be successful.”

So what does this mean? Is Dada in the rotation? Is there a legitimate big off the bench now? Truthfully, I don’t think any of us know, possibly not even Jay Wright. A combination of off-season injuries and the flu affecting other players might be the reason Cosby-Roundtree played the other day. Maybe there’s been such improvement in his legs that he and Wright feel he can contribute quality minutes this season. It’s no secret that the depth of this team has been a topic brought up repeatedly so far in this young season.

I’m not one who is overly concerned about the depth yet. Not only because it’s November, but also because what little I have seen from the freshman leads me to believe they will be capable of giving six or seven minutes off the bench down the line in March. I fully believe that Bryan Antoine will give quality minutes off the bench that can enhance the lineups he’s a part of once he is cleared, too.

Cosby-Roundtree playing the rest of the year could potentially do two crucial things. It would obviously give the ‘Cats more size and rebounding, but also aid in Eric Dixon’s development. From my experience talking with players at different levels, I’ve learned how critical it is for a young player to watch an experienced player they trust in a live game then be able to actually go in and play in that same game and get some run. Whether they play together or not, the younger player can ask about scenarios that happen in a live game then apply immediately what the more experienced player suggests. Sometimes even better, the younger player can see exactly what the older player means by watching the older player do it and then the younger player can apply it during his or her run. This real time development is crucial for young players and we saw in the tournament last year some young ‘Nova players grow each game.

Whatever happens with Dada, again, let’s give him an applause.

Shots! Shots! Shots?

Over this impressive stretch that Jay Wright has led over the last nine seasons, Villanova has been the best shooting team in the country, while also having the biggest green light in the country. We know about the ‘first look is the best look,’ philosophy that has led to so much success. This year though, while Nova is still shooting the three incredibly well, they aren’t as effective at shooting and finishing inside the arc. The ‘Cats are shooting their lowest 2P% since the 2012-13 season.

On Sunday, the ‘Cats shot 51.8 % from two, slightly up from their season average of 49%. For some context, the ‘Cats shot 57 % from two when they won the national title in 2016 and 59 % from two during the 2018 title run.

It’s also only six games into the season but the ability to not be effective or be a threat below the arc hurt this team badly last night and late in the two losses to UCLA and Purdue.

From the small sample size, so far what I see is the inability for this team to get to the rim consistently in 1 on 1’s and even more upsetting taking bad shots at the rim anyway when they don’t beat their man.

Against La Salle, the ‘Cats were a bit inconsistent. Although they dominated the first half and their insurmountable lead was never in jeopardy, Villanova had some offensive lulls in the second half.

On the bright side though, it was another solid game from Caleb Daniels offensively. That’s back to back strong shooting performances from Daniels beyond the arc after shooting a miserable 26 % from three in his 14 games before the Purdue loss.

There’s plenty of season left, though, and it’ll be interesting to see what schemes Wright employs, or how the ‘Cats return to form.

Nova Has Hands Everywhere

Back to something positive, the ‘Cats had excellent active hands on both sides of the ball against La Salle. The switching on defense was great and has been thus far in the short season. One highlight defensively were how active their hands were on defense.

Within the first minute of the game Brandon Slater and Jermaine Samuels were able to keep their hands engaged on the ball and in a passing lane to force a turnover. Chris Arcidiacono had a nice steal jumping in front of a pass from La Salle, catching it cleanly with his hands, leading to the first touch bucket from Cosby-Roundtree. Shortly after, Dada was able to tap a miss that led to a defensive rebound from Slater. A couple possessions later, Gillespie snagged a La Salle pass which led to an immediate 3-pointer from Daniels.

The hand activity was great on offense as well. In the ensuing possession after the sequence above with Slater and Samuels forcing a turnover, Eric Dixon was able to tap a miss out to Samuels for an offensive rebound. Dixon was also active when he was blocked about two minutes into the game, he was able to gather the loose ball between two La Salle players and get another possession that led to a three pointer from Gillespie. Dixon had five offensive rebounds and a few didn’t come from positioning but from his capability with his hands.

Nova has long been complimented for being a great catching team and this ability to make plays with their hands was on full display on Sunday.

Looking forward to Penn on Wednesday night.