The Irish put up a good fight for 30 minutes, but the wheels came off near the end. A huge upset turned into a road drubbing very quickly.
A strong zone defense kept the Nova guards at bay throughout the first half but ultimately the small Wildcat lineup wore us down. Not only did Antonio Pena stay in the game and avoid foul trouble, but he outrebounded Luke Harangody and picked up his first double-double in 13 contests. Our All-American was unable to control the paint against the weakest interior team in the conference. This was a great opportunity for him to stamp himself as the player of year but just 5 points and 3 rebounds in the second half allowed Villanova to run away with things.
Tory Jackson had a so-so night, but he paled in comparison to the athleticism demonstrated by Nova's backcourt. All four of Villanova's starting guards outscored Tory, as did Maalik Wayns off the bench. He dished out 7 assists to just 3 turnovers, but couldn't take the ball to the basket and missed both of his free throw attempts.
Ben Hansbrough fouled out in just 19 minutes, as all of the Wildcat guards managed to get to the charity stripe. 7 points, 2 assists, and an uncharacteristic 3 turnovers. His foul trouble, a demonstration of his lack of comparative foot speed, just made him ineffective.
Tim Abromaitis had a really tough night shooting, but did the correct thing by getting to the foul line as often as possible. He shot 8-10 from there, managing 16 points on what otherwise would have been a very disappointing night. The ability to draw fouls and continue to contribute is a very veteran move. I was impressed by him on that account.
Ty Nash had 12 and 6. Not really a poor night statistically, but he was another culprit on defense with 4 fouls. Just 23 minutes on the floor for our power forward.
Luke Harangody kept the Irish close in the first half, but disappeared when the Wildcats took control. He displayed surprisingly poor foul shooting and turned the ball over four times. When you are outrebounded by such a perimeter-based program, much of the blame has to fall on our big guy for not having a bigger presence.
Off the bench, Peoples earned 25 minutes with all that foul trouble. He played pretty well, but the comparison between the kind of quickness demonstrated by Villanova and our backup point guard is quite comical. Carleton Scott played 11 minutes, but fouled 3 times and just pulled down a pair of boards. He made an effect on the ball with 3 blocks and a steal but was another reason why Villanova was able to win the rebounding battle. Joey Brooks earned 7 minutes. Though he is the most fundamentally sound defender I've seen on the team, he is at a bit of a disadvantage against such a small lineup. Jack Cooley got in for a few minutes, as well.
Tough loss, but not unexpected. We really have to bounce back and get at least four of the next five.