The #7 Villanova Wildcats were playing out of synch, struggling on offense and defense, and Maryland was playing well. The ten game winning streak was in jeopardy. Trailing by 12 with 9:27 to play, Villanova turned to the experience of the senior class. The Wildcats scored the next 19 points to earn a 74 – 66 win over Maryland at the Wells Fargo Center. Led by Senior Guard Corey Fischer Villanova just kept playing hard, and the hard work paid off.
“It was good to see our young guys go through this,” said Fischer. “I’ve been through this. We just kept grinding and grinding. It was a great feeling and a great win.”
“It was good for these guys to go through this, so they know they can do this,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said about the comeback. “If we just keep grinding and grinding, we can go on a run. You can say it all you want, but if you’ve never experienced it you don’t know if you can do it. That is going to help us in the future.”
The Villanova defense held Maryland scoreless for 7:14. Forward Jordan Williams made a layup giving Maryland the 59 – 47 lead at the 9:27 mark. They would not score again until Williams made a fast break layup with 2:13 to play. During that span Maryland missed 8 shots and committed 2 turnovers in 10 possessions. Wright was so focused on the needed defense to get back into the game, he didn’t realize a 19 – 0 run was taking place.
“You just look at the next possession,” said Wright. “That is pretty impressive (19 – 0 run). You look at the next possession, the next possession, I didn’t realize the run was taking place. It took us to make shots, get into our press, and get stops.”
Fischer scored seven consecutive points to tie the game at 59 with 6:30 to play. Freshman Guard James Bell converted a three-point play to give the Wildcats a lead they never relinquished. Villanova trailed 59 – 47 when the run started, and led 66 – 61 when it ended.
Villanova played short-handed which gave increased time to Bell and Sophomore Forward Isaiah Armwood. Sophomore Guard Dominic Cheek injured his knee during the game, and Sophomore Forward Maurice Sutton was unavailable. Armwood responded with a 13 point, 8 rebound effort. Sophomore Guard Maalik Wayns scored a team-high 22 points and added 3 assists. Fischer scored 17 points and dished out 5 assists. Senior Forward Antonio Pena scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Sophomore Center Mouphtaou Yarou had a team-high 12 rebounds. Defensively, Villanova limited Maryland to 2 of 11 shooting from beyond the arc and forced 14 turnovers. Villanova had a 43 – 33 rebounding edge.
Maryland was led by Williams with game-high points and rebounds with 25 and 14. The Terps had a better shooting percentage (48.2% – 42.9%), registered 19 assists on 27 field goals, and had 10 steals. Still, it was not quite enough.
“Villanova is a great team, and they would not let us walk out of here with a win.” said Maryland Coach Gary Williams. “They jacked up their play, and we were not quite good enough.”
Villanova extends their winning streak to 11 games. The Wildcats improve to 16 – 1. They will meet Connecticut on January 17. They grind out a win, and the grind of the season goes on.
Key Run of the Game
Villanova had a 19 – 0 run from 9:08 to 2:13 in the second half. Maryland led by 12 when the run started, and trailed 66 – 61 with 2:13 to play when it ended.
Key Stat of the Game
Statistically the game was even. Villanova out-rebounded Maryland by a 43 – 33 margin, 23 – 14 in the second half.
Key Players in the Game
For Villanova – Corey Fischer who had 7 consecutive points in the game changing run. Fischer totaled 17 points and 5 assists.
For Maryland – Forward Jordan Williams who scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
Guard Maalik Wayns converted 2 free throws after Jordan Williams scored a basket to cut the Villanova lead to 5. Wayns made both free throws to increase the gap to 73 – 66 with 21.3 seconds on the clock.
Thoughts and Musings
Villanova is in the midst of a tough 5 game stretch. They have played Cincinnati, Louisville, a tough non-conference game against Maryland, and have Connecticut and Syracuse on the road ahead of them. Wright was not sure if the team was up to such a daunting task.
“When we were down, I wasn’t sure if we were mentally tough enough to go through the Cincinnati, Louisville, Maryland, UConn thing,” said Wright. “We are learning a lesson about ourselves. When that creeps through your mind, then you get something like this done, you say that’s a pretty special group of guys.”
The team showed him they were ready, and Wright is proud of them. He should be. Villanova is pulling out tough victories. They are earning their ranking. The next test is winning Big East games on the road. The Wildcats have earned passing grades so far, and there is no visible reason that they will stop now.
Written By: Glenn Papazian