Much like the season thus far, I’m not quite sure how to feel about Villanova’s win over Maryland. I feel better than if they dropped their second straight game, that’s for sure.
At half-time Villanova was up by 24 and had only given up 15 points. The offense showed some rhythm especially in getting looks at the rim. The highlight was the defense, clearly. They came out crisp and intense, almost like their season was on the line. This led to a Villanova lead that reached 32 at it’s peak.
The defense dipped some in the second half but still played well considering the huge lead. The offense in the second half? It didn’t just take a dip, it plummeted and at one point went over 12 minutes without making a shot from the floor, just free throws.
Villanova won 57-40 and a bounce back win is better than two early season losses. That second half though, understandably, has carried over some of the disheartenment from the Penn loss for Nova Nation.
Let’s look at what stood out in the win over the Terrapins.
On Ball Defense
The biggest positive I saw, especially in the first half, was the on ball defense from Villanova. They completely shut off any dribble drive that Maryland tried to initiate. The Villanova defenders looked as quick as they have in this short season. Anytime Jahmir Young or DeShawn Harris-Smith tried to get down hill they were met with some tough physicality and neither were ever able to get into any sort of rhythm off the bounce.
Villanova held Maryland to seven made shots below the three point line on 29 percent shooting. The Terrapins had just 12 paint points for the game.
Villanova’s athleticism and switchability was trouble from the start for Maryland and it seems like these could be real weapons for the ‘Cats moving forward.
Anyone know or have a bit of a clue who our closing lineup is? It’s early still so how about who our closing lineup might be?
I certainly don’t and on the bright side at least it’s only four games into the season. I’ve seen some thoughts on Coach Neptune’s early subs in both halves of different games. Most have been negative and I don’t think it’s a successful long term strategy. I do give him credit for being brave enough to sit guys who want big minutes to try and find a group that really flows together.
So far I don’t think he’s that close to finding that yet. I get that a handful of transfers are being blended into a new rotation. Seeing what both Coach Jim Larrañaga and Coach Tommy Lloyd have done and are doing at Arizona and Miami (FL) shows that chemistry and tempo can be developed at a high level in the off-season.
Let’s hope Coach Neptune and the staff find some things from the offense in the first half that can be used as building blocks moving forward.
2nd Half Misery
Villanova scored 18 points in the second half. They lost the second half. Both of those are bad enough coming off of a Big 5 loss or any loss really. What really defines how bad the second half was offensively for Villanova is this. TJ Bamba scored on a layup with 13:18 remaining in the game. Villanova didn’t make another shot from the floor until Mark Armstrong got Hakim Hart a bucket at the rim with 55 seconds left.
That’s over 12 minutes without being able to get a bucket, anywhere.
The 17 turnovers don’t help, although that was the game total, the offense played like a team living on self inflicted mistakes in the second half.
The struggle of not having a true point guard who can go 30 minutes or not trusting Mark Armstrong enough is causing periods of really stagnant offense.
The struggles at point guard have been featured on the national hoops landscape.
I’m in favor of letting Armstrong make mistakes, not constantly, but let him make enough of them to where he is still getting 25 minutes a game. He had a couple of really nice drives to the rim in the first half in this game. When he has found some space downhill and gotten free there is some nice tempo in the halfcourt that I don’t see in any other scenario.
It’s not just the point guard play though. Villanova hasn’t figured out how to feature Eric Dixon yet with the new players. He’s attempting fewer shots this season which was expected. Some of that is the additional talent and some of it is that he’s high on the scouting report now. Whatever the reason, Villanova should be able to really capitalize on the double teams that Dixon is seeing or the soft help that comes his way. They aren’t.
Villanova got the win, that counts and they needed it. The offensive nosedive in the second half also counts and let’s hope they can find some positives on film and continue to build in this young season.