Villanova is no longer sliding, it’s now a legitimate free fall.
Entering Monday nights game in South Bend, Indiana against the 7th ranked Irish from Notre Dame, Villanova had lost 6 out of 10 and it didn’t look like it could get any worse. It did.
Blink, and Nova was down 14-4. Blink again and it was 30-15. Come halftime, Villanova was down 20 points having given up 47 points including 11 first half threes.
Down by as many as 32 in the second half, Villanova did a little window washing and cut it to 19 only to eventually and mercifully fall 93-72 to the Irish on Senior Night on campus.
In the end, Notre Dame hit a school-record 20 three pointers, 16 of which came from seniors Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough who each put up 30 points in easily the worst display of defense seen from Villanova this season. One must wonder what Jay Wright’s scouting report of the Irish told him.
It was the second time in as many games Villanova has been torched by a possible Big East Player of the Year candidate. Dwight Hardy of St. John’s shot his way to a career high 34 points in the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. This time it was Hansbrough who’s shooting and defense dominated the Wildcats for 40 minutes on Monday night.
Hansbrough, with his brother Tyler (who played for UNC and now the Indiana Pacers) looking on, also added 10 assists and 5 steals in his last game at Purcell Pavilion. Abromaitis made 9 three pointers himself, one shy of the school-record set by Kyle McAlarney.
Coming in shooting 37.7% from three for the season, Notre Dame finished the game 20-32, good for 62.5%.
Villanova did little to slow down the barrage of Notre Dame shooters all game. Consistently leaving open shooters, mainly Abromaitis and Hansbrough, Villanova looked lost as to how to properly defend such a good shooting team. A team that can put as many as 5 3 point shooters on the floor at one time, Notre Dame beautifully moved the ball inside and out, passing up good shots for better ones, getting any open look they wanted throughout the game.
As beautiful and fluid as the Irish offense was, Villanova’s was that much more abysmal. Completely ignoring their poor (to say the least) shooting as of late, the Wildcats began the game launching from the outside as usual.
Perhaps a microcosm of the game was the first two posessions of the game.
First Villanova with the ball makes about 2 passes and about 15 seconds into the shot clock, Antonio Pena launches a 20 foot 2 pointer that clangs off the rim. Notre Dame rebounds, moves the ball beautifully, and gets the first of many wide open three pointers to go up 3-0. A lead they would never relinquish.
With the deficit growing and the crowd getting rowdier, Villanova grew even more impatient and continued to fire away from deep with no real movement. Even when the Wildcats would work the ball and get into the lane for a layup or perhaps some free throws, it would be 3 more possessions of missed jumpers before anyone would try to get back in the lane again.
Teams have figured out Villanova sophomore guard Maalik Wayns, going under every screen and playing off him, daring him to take an outside shot, which he has yet to prove he can make consistently.
Senior Corey Fisher continues to struggle from the field, although last night it was more a credit to Ben Hansbrough’s defense than anything else. Fisher did end up with 22 points, but 17 of them came in the second half with his team facing a huge deficit. He continues to shoot too much from the outside for someone who can usually get to the rim at will. Fisher was 3-8 from three against the Irish.
Now in sole possession of 11th place in the Big East, Villanova must win at 5th ranked Pittsburgh on Saturday to have any outside chance at getting a first round bye in the Big East tournament. With the top 4 seeds getting 2 day byes and the next 4 getting first round byes, it is near impossible to see a team roll through the entire mammoth 16 team conference tournament without receiving any sort of bye.
Even if Villanova receives none of the help they will need from other Big East teams to grab a top 8 seed, there must be something to play for. Forget jockeying for position in the Big East. Forget fighting for what looks like at best a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats have shown little toughness in their current slide and must start playing with some sort of heart. After getting embarrassed like that, they need to play for some pride.
The Pitt Panthers came into the Main Line weeks ago and stole a victory from them in front of a national audience. A couple weeks and 3 more losses later the Wildcats have found themselves in a free fall at the worst time. It’s time they started playing for something else, because it can’t possibly get any worse, can it?
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.