Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Of numbers and words

Jay Wright said he didn't want Villanova "to get into a three-point shooting contest" with UCLA. He got his wish.

Of numbers and words


Jay Wright said he didn't want Villanova "to get into a three-point shooting contest" with UCLA.

The Wildcats didn't, and as a result they're headed to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years.

Wright's players scored 46 points from inside the paint and added 19 more at the free throw line in an 89-69 blowout of UCLA, and that's putting it politely.

"We can get a little crazy, as everybody knows," Wright said. "We wanted to get the ball to the rim, we wanted to get the ball to Dante [Cunningham], we wanted to get on the offensive glass. That was a bibg difference tonight."

These were the measurements of how thoroughly Villanova dominated this game.

The Wildcats made 31 of 67 field goal attempts (46.3%), including eight of 25 three-point attempts (32.0%) and 23 of 42 two-point attempts (54.8%), and 19 of 27 free throws. They recorded 16 offensive rebounds, 25 defensive rebounds, 20 assists, 11 turnovers, one block and 11 steals, and committed 22 fouls.

That adds up to 73 possessions and 1.214 points per possession.

UCLA made 20 of 47 field goal attempts (42.6%), including nine of 24 three-point attempts (37.5%) and 11 of 23 two-point attempts (47.8%), and 20 of 30 free throws (66.7%). They recorded eight offensive rebounds, 21 defensive rebounds, 14 assists, 20 turnovers, three blocks and seven steals, and committed 21 fouls.

That adds up to 71 possessions and 0.964 points per possession.

The points of emphasis: 20 UCLA turnovers to 11 by Villanova, 16 offensive rebounds for Villanova to 21 defensive boards for UCLA. And again: 46 of the Wildcats' 89 points were scored in the paint.

Just as importantly for Villanova, those 46 points were evenly balanced between the halves: 22 in the first, 24 in the second. Against American, it was 14 in the first and 22 in the second.

"We haven't really played 40 minutes," Wright admitted. "We've had games where we've had games where we had leads [and] we kind of got lackadaisical.

There was defense, too, especially in the backcourt. Star Bruins guard Darren Collison was held to only 4-for-10 shooting and committed five turnovers. He was also seen talking to the referees at one point about the physicality of the game.

"I was just talking to the official because I thought [Villanova] was fouling a little bit too hard," he said. "Maybe I was getting frustrated, or not."

And this: "I mean, they were a physical team. We're a physical team. It's nothing we haven't seen in the Pac-10, we just didn't get the recognition in the Pac-10 for physicality."

Maybe I haven't seen as much Pac-10 basketball as Collison has this season, but one of the perks of having a satellite dish is that I've seen a pretty good amount. I am not convinced the physicality of that conference can match what Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Louisville and West Virginia bring in the Big East.

I asked UCLA coach Ben Howland, who spent four years at Pittsburgh before taking the reins in Westwood, for his thoughts on Collison's remarks.

"I'd say the Pac-10 has become much more physical the last few years, at least compared to when I first got in that league," Howland said. "No question, the Big East was always a physical league, in my four years here [and] in watching film of their league games. That's the way the game should be played, that's how I like it to be played."

Of all the numbers I've mentioned in this post, the ones to think about most are the very first ones: five years, four trips to the Sweet 16.

Wright was asked what he said to his upperclassmen after taking them out once the game was decided.

"I just wanted them to understand how important of a game this is," he said. "Look what the results can be, how good they can be."

You can never assume that a team will always play to its potential. But as the clock wound down, I thought about two comments that were posted during the Villanova-American liveblog:

8:31 [Comment From Guest]
Jay Wright EXPOSED

8:54 [Comment From Explorer]
I can coach Nova to a 27-7 record. Wright is overrated.

To borrow Wright's word, Villanova was indeed lackadaisical in the first half against American. That should not be overlooked or excused. But there's a point at which events that seem independent of each other become related instead of coincidental.

This day might be such a point.

D. Cunningham

Staff Writer
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Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

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