Villanova Coach Jay Wright and the team knew this game was going to be a physical battle. At times it was a foul fest. At times a team needs to find a way to get through tough situations. #7 Villanova did and earned a 72 – 61 win over previously undefeated #24 Cincinnati.
“That was a good win for us,” said Wright. “Both teams had foul trouble early, foul trouble late, both teams dealt with a lot of adversity. That’s what it’s all about. I liked our guts. I liked our toughness.”
There was a total of 46 fouls called, 23 on each team. Each Villanova starter had 4 fouls on them. At one point in the game Wright had both Fischer and Wayns on the bench. Senior Guard Corey Fischer made 10 of 11 free throws and scored a game-high 21 points. Sophomore Guard Maalik Wayns scored 15 points making 8 of 8 from the free throw line. However, the veteran leadership team kept their composure.
“Fischer, Stokes, Pena, our seniors keep us together,” said Wright.
Villanova established the early lead in the last three and a half minutes of the first half. A basket by Corey Fischer put the Wildcats ahead 28 – 21. It began an 11 – 2 run to a 39 – 23 halftime lead. All 11 Villanova points were scored at the foul line as Cincinnati committed four fouls, and bench was given a technical. Fischer made seven of the free throws. Nine of Fischer’s 20 first half points came at the foul line where Villanova out-scored Cincinnati 16 – 4. Cincinnati committed 14 first half fouls, Villanova was whistled for 10.
At the beginning of the second half the play was physical, and the game was called accordingly. 1:22 into the second half Cincinnati Forward Ibrahima Thomas fouled Villanova Center Mouphtaou Yarou. Thomas showed displeasure with the call and was assessed a technical foul which was his fifth fouling Thomas out of the game. Yarou and Stokes made all 4 free throws giving Villanova a 46 – 25 lead. As long as the Wildcats got the foul line they scored.
Villanova started to commit the fouls and turnovers. Cincinnati crawled back into striking distance getting to within 7 at the 9:02 mark. Villanova found a way to stay in front. A key play that helped to stem the tide was a steal, dunk and free throw by Dominic Cheek with 7:53 remaining. The 3-Point play gave Villanova a 62 – 50 lead. The Wildcats found enough offense to keep the lead and get the win as Cincinnati got no closer than 8 for the remainder of the game.
“We had to start our comeback from too far behind,” said Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin.
“We knew they would make some runs,” said Fischer. “They came out and made a run, but we kept playing hard and got a good win against a good team.”
Cincinnati made more field goals than Villanova (22 – 19) and pulled down 15 offensive rebounds and had less turnovers. Villanova countered by making six 3-Point baskets compared to 2 for Cincinnati, and had the free throw line advantage. That proved to be the difference.
Cincinnati had 3 players score in double figures led by Forward Rashad Bishop with 14 points. Forward Yancey Gates and Guard Sean Kilpatrick each had 11.
Villanova improves to 14 – 1 and 3 – 0 in the Big East. Cincinnati is 15 – 1, 2 – 1 in conference. Their winning streak at the Pavilion is 45 games. The Wildcats prepare for a game against Louisville on January 12 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Villanova survives the game and everything that went with it. Wright sees a positive in that.
“You’d hate to be in this position being down, but this was a good win for us, said Wright.
Turning Point of the Game
In the middle of the second half Cincinnati was making a comeback getting to within 7 on 2 free throws by Cincinnati Guard Cashmere Wright with 9:02 on the clock. Villanova answered with 2 free throws by Maalik Wayns to increase the lead to 9. On the next possession Villanova Guard Dominic Cheek stole a pass by Sean Fitzpatrick, took it to the basket, dunked, and was fouled by Fitzpatrick. The 3-Point play gave Villanova a 62 – 50 lead with 7:53 to play. Cincinnati would get no closer than 8 points for the rest of the game.
Key Stat in the Game
Villanova made 28 of 33 foul shots as Cincinnati was whistled for 23 personal fouls (including two technical fouls). Villanova also had 23 fouls called on them, but Cincinnati converted 15 of 25 from the free throw line. Corey Fischer made 10 of 11 free throws, and Wayns converted all 8 of his free throws.
Key Players in the Game
For Villanova – Corey Fischer who scored 21 points (20 in the first half) and dished out 4 assists and committed only 2 turnovers. The senior guard was 4 of 8 from the filed, and made 3 of 4 three-point shots.
For Cincinnati – Forward Rashad Bishop who scored 14 points and had 3 assists and 3 rebounds.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
At the 2:32 mark Villanova Center Mouphtaou Yarou made a dunk to give Villanova a 72 – 61 lead. It was the last points scored in the game.
Thoughts and Musings
Villanova Coach Jay Wright is a big believer in having seniors on the floor. He feels as though his seniors, Corey Fischer, Antonio Pena, and Corey Stokes are the glue that keeps his team together. When faced with having his guard tandem of Fischer and Wayns on the bench with 4 fouls each, he felt that if someone would foul out, he would prefer that his senior would still be available.
In viewing the statistics it was noted that Villanova committed 19 turnovers, 6 by the seniors and rest by sophomores.
Jay Wright has confidence in his seniors, especially on the floor. But off the floor he is more confident that his seniors are teaching the sophomores. That is why Villanova has an excellent team year after year. It’s what’s called building a program.
Written By: Glenn Papazian