Such is life in the Big East.
After starting the conference schedule 4-0, Villanova has lost 3 out of its last 4, the latest being a hard fought home loss to John Thompson III’s Georgetown Hoyas.
Austin Freeman led the way for the Hoyas scoring 30 points, with only one other teammate scoring in double figures (Jason Clark with 10 points). Down the stretch with Villanova closing in, Georgetown fed their star senior and he led them to victory with a number of tough buckets in the closing minutes.
Offensively, Villanova looked stagnant most of the game, moving the ball around the perimeter, for about 25 of the 35 shot clock seconds, only to isolate guards Corey Fisher or Maalik Wayns and let them go to work. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Georgetown played great team defense and would not allow the shifty back court any access into the paint and forced them into contested outside shots.
Once Villanova finally made a run and cut the lead to 1 point numerous times in the final minutes, Freeman always had an answer. The first, a contested baseline jumper with the shot clock running down, with about a minute left, may have been the biggest.
Fisher and Wayns each finished with 15 points for the Wildcats, who dropped to 0-4 when being held under 70 points. Corey Stokes added 13 points and hit a couple threes to keep Villanova close in the 2nd half, despite injuring his toe in the first half and playing hurt the rest of the game.
The last gasp for the Wildcats came from a desperation three from Antonio Pena who finished with 10 points, and Dom Cheek’s hailmary attempt was after the buzzer as Villanova lost for the first time at home this year, although it was at the Wells Fargo Center, not the Pavilion on campus.
Amid this latest loss at the hand of the Hoyas, the committee (of one) gives its mid season (sort of) grades for everything Wildcat.
Corey Fisher (15.6 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.4 spg) A- (90)
The Senior guard is still the unquestionable leader of this Villanova team. When things break down, it is Fisher who gets the rock and makes things happen for either himself or others. Usually interchangeable with his sophomore back court mate Maalik Wayns, Fisher averages more points and more rebounds in 4 more minutes per game and is the senior leader on this team, which differentiates himself from Wayns. Fisher is shooting 40% from the floor including 33% from three and 79% from the line. Gets to the hoop usually at will, but has struggled recently because teams have filtered him outside and not allowed him access to the rim. Fisher has reacted to that by shooting more threes, which is not his game. Nova must get out in transition more in the future which should allow Fish to have more open looks at the rim with defenses not being able to get set. Also needs to get to the line more where he shoots close to 80%. When Corey Fisher is playing well, it opens up things for both Maalik Wayns and more so for Corey Stokes. Fisher can really cement his Villanova legacy by playing good basketball and having a deep run in March after playing in Scottie Reynold’s shadow for so long and a disappointing first round exit last year.
Corey Stokes (15.2 ppg, 1.5 apg, 3.6 rpg, 1.0 spg) A- (91)
The second leading scorer on this Villanova team, Corey Stokes was being depended on to have a great senior season, and has not disappointed. The only reason his score is not higher is because of his recent struggles (After a certain blogger jinxed him and wrote about his great numbers). Stokes is shooting 43% from the floor including over 41% from three point range. His recent string of bad shooting games has caused his percentages to drop, but make no mistake, Stokes has shot the ball extremely efficiently throughout the year. He has also developed into one of the better defenders on this Villanova team, often locking down the opposing team’s leading scorer. Stokes has become automatic from the free throw line, shooting 71-75 for the year, a great asset to have come late game and tournament time. He will need to maintain his consistency throughout the second half of Big East play as Villanova will depend on him making shots.
Maalik Wayns (14.1 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.2 spg) B+ (87)
The second half of a star studded back court, Maalik Wayns has become a go to guy in his sophomore year. No longer coming off the bench behind Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, Wayns gets the ball at the end of the shot clock and has kept Villanova in certain games. Shoots over 80% from the free throw line and combined with the previously mentioned guards they average 84% from the line. Villanova should feel pretty good that the guys who have the ball at the end of games shoot that well from the line. Much like Fisher, Villanova plays well when Wayns is creating for himself and others. Shooting 42% from the field, despite only 25% from three. Wayns is at his best when he is getting to the hoop, however teams have forced him outside as they have Corey Fisher as well. He needs to continue to force his way into the lane and get to the line where he shoots such a high percentage. Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened is his great shooting day at Syracuse, as Wayns has continued to bomb from deep and get away from what makes him so dangerous. After the latest struggles, look for both Wayns and Fisher to force their way into the lane in the coming games, which should open things up for Stokes. Assuming Wayns does not go Pro (which is a distinct possibility, especially if he plays well in March), if he can get a consistent jumper to go along with the rest of his offensive arsenal, Wayns could be an All-American next year.
Antonio Pena (10.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.0 spg, .7 bpg) B (84)
The third Senior on this Villanova team, Antonio Pena has been solid throughout the season. Jay Wright does not ask his big men to do too much on the offensive end. As a team heavily reliant on guard play, the front court is depended on for rebounding and defense. Any offensive production that comes from the Villanova front court is considered a bonus. Antonio Pena has provided that bonus thus far for Villanova. Averaging a little over 10 points per game, Pena has developed a consistent mid range jumper that has bailed Villanova out on certain possessions. His ability to step out and hit the 15 footer has forced his defenders to guard him on the outside and really opened up the lane for Fisher and Wayns. At only 6’8, he has turned into an exceptional rebounder, leading the team with Mouph Yarou at 7.4 boards per game. Pena does not block many shots, but is a solid defender and will not hesitate to take a charge rather than try to block the shot. He shoots at a high percentage (54%) from the floor, and has earned Jay Wright’s confidence recently to shoot it at any point. Despite being undersized, Pena holds his ground with bigger players and does not get pushed around. He will need to continue to rebound and hit the open shot if Villanova is going to make a deep run .
Mouphtaou Yarou (8.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .5 spg, 1.1 bpg) B- (82)
Playing in his first full year for Villanova, Mouph has shown signs of greatness. Diagnosed with hepatitis B in his freshman year and missing more than half the year, Yarou played well in the latter part of the season last year. So far this year, he has doubled his scoring and rebounding averages from the previous year. Mouph has shown the ability to finish around the rim, but is still a work in progress on the offensive end. He has one or two post moves, but does not use them on a consistent basis, nor does he finish layups as consistently as Jay Wright would like. This is a problem because he also shoots only 64% from the free throw line. Considering the leaps he has made in just his first full year, it is not hard to see how good Mouph can be in the future for Villanova. With the guards that the Wildcats seem to breed, imagining them with a great big man can be scary. Defensively, though he only averages about a block a game, it is his presence in the middle and the shots that he alters that make him such a good defender. As Mouph gains more and more experience and works on his timing, his numbers should improve as far as blocks per game. He is a load inside and can really establish the paint when he wants to. He will be a large part of Nova’s run in the tournament if he can control the lane and rebound and play solid defense.
Dominic Cheek (7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) B- (80)
Another guy with a nice looking future is sophomore Dominic Cheek. So far this season, Cheek has been the 6th man for Villanova, averaging 7 ppg and 4 rpg. The 6’6 Cheek is rangy and athletic, and at times has shown signs of being a talented scorer. He has been able to hit the open three, while playing solid defense and getting out on the break. However, because of opposing defenses recently keying in on Fisher, Stokes, and Wayns, Villanova fans would like to see Cheek assert himself a little more on the offensive end. Because of that size and athleticism, Cheeks has established himself as somewhat of a “glue guy” who can do a little bit of everything. For Villanova to be successful in the second half of the year, Cheeks will have to be the guy who can do anything asked of him, whether it is get a bucket on the offensive end, get a rebound, or lock somebody down on defense.
Maurice Sutton (3.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg) C+ (77)
With a guy like Maurice Sutton, you have to learn to take the good with the bad. The good being a guy who can come off the bench and make hustle plays, rebound the ball, and block some shots. Unfortunately, he can not spend much time on the floor because of his penchant for fouling and his rail thin frame which gets pushed around in the paint. Sutton adds some depth on the interior and can really affect the game with his shot blocking ability at a long 6’11. However, he can not stay on the floor very long or the opposing team will be shooting foul shots pretty quickly. So far in the season Sutton has shot 58% from the floor (17-29), so he has shown the ability to finish at the rim when he gets the chance. However, he has not shown much as far as versatility on the offensive end. So far, Sutton has proved to be the guy who can make you stand up and cheer or make you pull your hair out, however if he does the same for opposing coaches then he is doing his job.
Isiah Armwood (2.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, .9bpg) C+ (78)
The 6’8 Sophomore has shown great improvement from his freshman season. Though only playing about 14 minutes a game, Armwood has shown the ability to finish around the rim and at only 6’8 he rebounds well and plays solid defense. Has a better shooting touch than his field goal percentage and free throw percentage show, and has a lot of upside compared to his sophomore counterpart Sutton. Early on in the season, Armwood was having trouble getting consistent minutes, however when Big East conference play started, he became a solid big man off the bench. If he can continue to rebound and finish, as well as play consistent defense, he will get minutes. In the future, if Armwood can develop a go to post move and the mid range jumper that Antonio Pena has worked so hard on, he could see his way into the starting lineup as early as next year with Pena graduating.
Jay Wright (17-4, 5-3 Big East, Ranked 12th Nationally) A (94)
As usual, the best dressed coach in college basketball has his team playing at a championship level. Though he would agree that they are not yet where they need to be, this Villanova team has already shown strides this season. They have the tools to be a Final Four team, and it is because of Wright and his coaching staff. Early on, it was the offense that looked unstoppable, with Fisher, Wayns, and especially Stokes playing exceptional basketball. Opposing defenses have adapted and made them look stagnant in their current funk. Can Jay Wright adjust to the way defenses are now playing the Wildcats and right the ship? At this point two years ago Villanova was 17-4 and 5-3 in the Big East. That season ended in Detroit, in the Final Four. So don’t count out Jay Wright and the Wildcats just yet.
About the Author
Written by Brendan Kelly
Hoops junkie. Graduated from Temple U with a broadcasting and communications degree looking to get into a career in sports, more specifically basketball.