It’s hard to believe that only four years ago, this program was cutting down the nets at the TD Garden in Boston and headed to Detroit for the 2009 Final Four. Had I not seen Scottie Reynolds drop in a floater in the paint as time ran off the clock vs. Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight with my own eyes, I’m not sure I would believe it.
What was an entertaining first half at The Pavilion Wednesday night quickly took a turn for the worst for the Villanova Wildcats as they conceded an 18-2 run to crosstown rival, Temple, to open the second half. It took over ten minutes of play for the Wildcats to finally record a field goal in the second half.
One would think, a team would go to a trusted scorer when in dire need of a bucket. Pound the ball inside and go for a high percentage shot. JayVaughn Pinkston would be the suitable candidate to fill this role, coming off a 2011-12 season in which he averaged nearly 10 points for the Wildcats, but at times showed flashes of greatness. Pinkston, however, did not have much of an offensive presence in this game.
Wake Forest transfer, Tony Chennault hit a three with over nine minutes to play. There is no question the lack offensive performance from Nova’s only remaining McDonald’s All-American hindered the Wildcats’ chances of sending their crosstown foes home with a loss. Five points and six rebounds from Pinkston was not exactly sending anyone packing.
Instead it was redshirt senior guard, Scootie Randall, and sophomore forward, Will Lee, leading the attack for the Owls, finishing with 21 and 16 points, respectively.
For the Wildcats, junior guard, James Bell, looked good shooting the basketball. Bell finished shooting five of eight from the field for 15 points.
The Wildcats will be relying heavily on freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono this season. ‘Arc’ still has a long ways to go in terms of shot selection, but brings a feisty energy to the team.
Senior forward, Maurice Sutton provided the Wildcats with energy, as well, proving to be an effective shot blocker and displaying great hustle throughout the game. Coach Jay Wright rewarded his senior for his hard work and dedication to the program, starting Sutton last night vs. Temple.
**Joe Lunardi had an excellent breakdown of the Big Five in the first half of play. Lunardi spoke on the importance of the rivalry to each school and to Philadelphia, how each team has had their moment in the spotlight, and how even Drexel has been successful, finishing with more wins than any of the Big Five schools last season.
Speedy Morris received a lot of credit during the breakdown, if not mentioned directly by name. There was good information on former LaSalle standouts, Lionel Simmons and Tim Legler.
**Also, keep an eye out for transfer guard and local product, Dalton Pepper, to emerge this year for the Owls. Time will only benefit Pepper, who is in his first year playing with the Owls since transferring from West Virginia. Pepper came off the bench for Bob Huggins to add a defensive presence. But do not sleep on Dalton Pepper. He can be an explosive scorer and will add a dangerous addition for the Owls if he can get going alongside Wyatt, Randall, Lee, and DiLeo.
**Villanova lost two McDonald’s All-Americans last season when Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek decided to forego their senior seasons. Wayns is averaging 2.5 points and 7.5 minutes in his rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers, while Cheek is looking to play professionally in Europe.
**I leave you with this.