After a clawing out a win over George Mason, beating the ranked Flyers of Dayton, and burning through Mississippi in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip Off, the triumphant Wildcats of Villanova have returned home with a perfect 5-0 season record (that’s V-N for all you Roman enthusiasts out there).
It was not an easy road for ‘Nova, but it’s the hard fought battles in the beginning of the season that often mean the most.
With senior Reggie Redding suspended into December, Villanova’s freshmen (and sophomore transfer Taylor King) are all being called upon to play more minutes earlier than anticipated this season. The lone freshman to start for ‘Nova, Mouphtaou Yarou, was sent home from Puerto Rico before the tournament even began with a viral infection. This also led to many extra minutes for the Wildcat’s young guns.
Villanova trailed almost the entire game to George Mason and won in the final seconds. They next saw their 18-point lead over Dayton shrink to just two before edging out a victory over the Flyers. Fighting your way back after being outplayed and blowing a large lead and still finding a way to win are invaluable experiences for young players. This is especially true in a league as tough as the Big East.
Coach Jay Wright will be able to draw on these games later in the season to show that this team is capable of coming back to win (if they are down late in the game) or that they can fight off a run by another team looking to regain the lead that ‘Nova held for most of the game.
Villanova has five players averaging double figures in points so far this season. Guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher lead the charge. Reynolds is averaging 13.8 points per game with Fisher right behind him at 13.0. Fisher also leads the team in assists, averaging 4.4 of them per game. Forward Antonio Pena has scored an average of 12.2 points a game and is also averaging 11.0 rebounds per game, leading the team.
Shooting wonders Corey Stokes and Taylor King are averaging 11.2 and 10.8 points a game. Both players are also rebounding well, Stokes with five boards per game and King with 7.6.
Among the freshmen, Maalik Wayns is scoring 7.0 a game on average, Yarou 5.0, Dominic Cheek 4.8, and Maurice Sutton 4.6. Sutton is also leading the team in blocks, averaging 1.2 of them per game.
Isaiah Armwood, who has played far less than the other young players this year, is averaging just 1.8 PPG but hit the biggest shot of the season thus far (and the first of his college career), a three-pointer in the final seconds to beat George Mason.
This is a young team that is still trying to find its identity and define the roles of its players, but they are being led by a gritty group of upperclassmen and have talented underclassmen that look eager and ready to contribute. When you add Yarou and eventually Redding back into the mix, there is no telling how far this ‘Nova team can go.
They have already shown they can overcome the adversity of losing a senior for the first semester, losing a starter with no notice before a tournament, trailing for almost an entire game, losing a big lead, and playing in a tournament championship…and are still undefeated at 5-0.
Villanova still has much to work on; their free throw shooting has been questionable at times, and they need to work on staying out of foul trouble.
Next up for the Wildcats are the Explorers of La Salle University. The Explorers are off to a 3-1 start and have four players averaging double figures (and a fifth with 9.5 PPG). Leading the way for La Salle is guard Rodney Green, who leads the team in points (20.0 per game), rebounds (7.8 per game), and steals (2.2 per game). Green is also tied for second on the team is assists, averaging 2.5 per game.
Villanova will have several days to rest up and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday before gearing up to play Big-5 rival La Salle at the Pavilion on Saturday at 3:30pm.
There should be a lively crowd on campus as the Villanova football team will be playing a home game at 12:00pm against Holy Cross in the first round of the Division 1 (subdivision) playoffs. Villanova is the two seed in the football playoffs.
It should be a wild time for the Cats of Villanova on the Main Line this Saturday!