After an upset loss on the road to Temple and a blowout victory over Fordham in New Jersey (which marked the return of senior guard Reggie Redding), Villanova returned home Wednesday night to face Delaware in their last non-conference game before a grueling eighteen-game long Big East season (which kicks off for the Cats on January 2nd, 2010 at Marquette).
With many former star Villanova players in attendance at the game (including recent greats Curtis Sumpter, Will Sheridan, Allen Ray, and Mike Nardi who, watched the game from court-side seats just feet from where I was seated on press row) it was 'Nova’s current stars that took center stage on this night. Reggie Redding came out hot scoring seven points in the first two minutes and had reached double figures only five minutes into the game.
At the first timeout, the P.A. announcer introduced football coach Andy Talley and members of his staff. Fresh off their first National Title in football, they were greeted with a standing ovation.
Delaware stormed back early and trailed by only two points (24-22) nine minutes into the game. In the next five minutes, the Wildcats extended their lead back to 10 points.
Antonio Pena had only two points for almost the entire first half, and shooting sensations Corey Stokes and Taylor King were held scoreless until King connected on two free throws 17 minutes into the game. A minute later he would hit his first field goal of the game.
'Nova was up 48-32 at the half led by Redding with 12 points, Corey Fisher with 10 points, and Scottie Reynolds with eight points.
Delaware opened the second half on an 8-0 run to cut the lead under 10. With 'Nova also looking shaky before and after half time against Temple, the fans began to get a little antsy. It wouldn’t last. Almost four minutes into the second half, the Wildcats scored their first points since the break (a layup by Reynolds) and never looked back.
Reggie Redding, who started the game on fire, went 21 minutes without a field goal until he connected on a shot six minutes into the second half. Moments later Corey Stokes connected on his first bucket of the game, and by the time the game reached the final ten minutes, 'Nova was up 67-48.
There were several big hustle plays for the Wildcats even once they built a big lead, capped off by guard Dominic Cheek diving over some fans and into the stands after a loose ball. He slipped as he tried to get back on the court, but then quickly hustled back down the floor.
Corey Fisher was fouled hard on the way to the basket by Blue Hen player Josh Brinkley, and Redding quickly came in to defend his teammate. The two players had to be separated by the refs. This came at exactly the 4:20 mark.
I held my breath thinking, “This isn’t the first time 4:20 has gotten Redding into trouble this season (he was suspended for the first semester for a marijuana related incident)." Luckily, the two players did not come to blows.
Villanova pushed the lead to as many as 37 points before finally winning 97-63.
Scottie Reynolds led the way with 22 points and six assists. Taylor King, who was held scoreless for the first 17 minutes of the game, wound up with 19 points and a team high 12 rebounds (including six offensive boards). Reggie Redding finished with 16 points and six rebounds, and Corey Fisher added 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists. The only Wildcat player to not score was walk-on Russell Wooten, who played the final two minutes of the game in garbage time. Center Maurice Sutton did not play and was again dressed in street clothes.
Villanova shot over 50 percent from three-point range (13 of 25), over 85 percent from the charity stripe (18 of 21), and out-rebounded Delaware by 20 (39 to 19).
Delaware was led by Jawan Carter, who scored 13 points and added six assists. The only other Blue Hen in double figures was Kelvin McNeil, who scored 10 points and had a team-high seven rebounds.
It was the second straight impressive victory for Villanova after a terrible loss to the unranked Temple Owls (that dropped Villanova from No. 3 to No. 8 in the rankings). The last two opponents have been cupcakes, however, which still leaves a lot of questions heading into a tough Big East season.
With Redding back, Coach Jay Wright indicated that they will often have four guards on the court. This has worked for Villanova in the past, but it has yet to be proven to work for this current team. With Mouph Yarou still expected to redshirt, will Villanova have enough size to compete in the Big East, even with a talented group of guards? I believe they will be just fine as long as they can dictate the tempo and style of play and not allow the other team to do so (like Temple did).
For now, it is a long break for Jay Wright’s bunch before they travel to play Marquette on January 2nd. Their next home game with be against DePaul on January 6th , 2010. This comes exactly three years to the day since their last home loss, a streak of 33 straight home wins.