“V” for Villanova; “V” for victory.
Before the Wildcats last game in 2009, “F” stood for Final Four, and after a loss to North Carolina, it also stood for Farewell to seniors Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, and Shane Clark.
As the 2009-10 Villanova Wildcats entered the Pavilion on their Main Line campus for their first game since that loss, “F” was about to take on a whole new meaning; it would now stand for Freshman and Firsts.
And what a night of firsts it was for Villanova as they opened its season against Fairleigh Dickinson.
It was the first start for 6’10’’ freshman Mouphtaou Yarou who scored six points and added three rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
It was the first of many three-point field goals from sophomore Taylor King who played in his first game at Villanova after sitting out last season because he transferred from Duke. King, who also played 20 minutes, added nine points and seven rebounds.
It was the first game at Villanova for freshman guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek. The highly touted freshman guards each played for 18 minutes off the Nova bench. Cheek scored eight points (including two-of-four from behind the arc) and added four rebounds. Wayns added six points and two rebounds. They both had two assists.
Redshirt freshman Maurice Sutton added five points and two rebounds in his first game action (six minutes) including a monster put-back dunk in the second half that brought the crowd to its feet. Moments later Sutton blocked a shot at the other end of the floor and pounded his chest excitedly.
Finally, it was the first minute of action for freshman Isaiah Armwood, a talented forward who may wind up redshirting this season. He did not score.
With five freshmen on the court together for the last minute of the game, the student section began to chant “They’re all freshman!” as the Wildcats finished off the Knights of FDU to notch their first win of the season 84-61.
With all of the firsts that came on this night, it was business as usual for the elder statesmen on the Nova roster. Junior Corey Stokes led the way with 20 points (including five-of-ten from three-point land). Junior Corey Fisher (the only other player in double figures) added 13 points. Both players had four rebounds a piece and combined for six assists.
Junior forward Antonio Pena added nine points and 10 rebounds, barely missing a double-double effort. He missed three of his six free-throws. On the whole, the Wildcats, who are usually known for their excellent free-throw shooting, shot only 21-of-31 from the charity stripe (68 percent).
The lone senior on the court, guard Scottie Reynolds, who had explored a jump to the NBA before he eventually decided to return to Villanova for his final year, had an off night. He scored just eight points on two-of-ten shooting (and missed all four of his three-point attempts).
Senior guard Reggie Redding has been suspended for the first semester of this year for a car accident in which marijuana was found in his vehicle. He is able to practice with the team for now (he cannot be on the bench for games) and will return in time for the Big East regular season.
Villanova, who led by only a point at half-time, looked confused on defense in the first half; not what you would expect from a team with a preseason top five ranking. In the second half they seemed to settle down and won easily.
This may just be the deepest Villanova team ever. They are loaded with talent in both the front and back court. With so many new faces on the team, it will take them some time to gel into a cohesive unit.
Villanova plays Big-Five opponent Penn on Monday night on the Main Line before heading off to Puerto Rico for a tournament in which they could face its first real test in a tough second round match-up against either Georgia Tech or Dayton.
This Nova team certainly has the talent to run with any team in the country. The question will be how quickly can they learn to play together, and what will their rotation be before (and after) Reggie Redding is able to return. One thing is for certain; coach Jay Wright will accept nothing but the best from this team as they look to follow up last season’s Final Four run with another stellar performance.