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Villanova Basketball Media Day 2011

Villanova held its annual Men’s Basketball media day on Wednesday, November 2nd at the Pavilion.

This was the third time in the past few months that the team has been made available to the media (prior to departing for EuroJam, and the Blue & White scrimmage).

This year’s Wildcats team has a vastly different look than it did last season. Gone are last year’s seniors Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Antonio Pena (as well as Isaiah Armwood who decided to transfer). Red-shirt freshman JayVaughn Pinkston, and true freshman Ach Yacoubou, Darrun Hilliard, Markus Kennedy, Ty Johnson now join a group of sophomores and juniors. The only senior on the team is walk-on guard Dallas Ouano. How quickly this young team can gel will go along way in determining how successful their season is. Perhaps that is why their schedule opens with three home games against less than stellar competition (Monmouth, La Salle, and Delaware).

The players and coaches alike echoed many of the same sentiments about the upcoming season: this is a much larger team than the guard driven teams of the past, they are poised to be a better defensive squad, and they can run the floor with anyone.

If the Wildcats are to succeed this season, many things will have to happen. The team will have to implement, and run, some set offensive plays. This is not the four guard team of the past who can produce their own shots at will. They have many talented players and will have to tailor plays that work to the their strengths.

They will have to bring their shooters off of screens, make multiple crisp passes in a single possession, drive to the basket to collapse opposing defenses, and most importantly of all, feed the post early and often.

Mouph Yarou is a force to be reckoned with and Villanova would be wise to get him the ball early and establish the post. This will open things up from the perimeter as well as the mid range jump shots.

Dom Cheek and James Bell are going to have to step up and knock down their open three point looks. The only Wildcat to shoot over 40% from three-point range last season was Stokes, and the next best player was Fisher at just under 33%. Bell and Cheek both shot in the low 30% range. If Villanova can’t knock down more open looks in 2011-12, teams will not respect their perimeter game and will be able to cheat in on the post-area, double teaming Yarou, Kennedy, Pinkston, and Maurice Sutton.

Free-throw shooting has always been strong at Villanova but tailed off last season with only Stokes (89%) and Wayns (82%) shooting over 80%. The guards should all be shooting at least 80% from the charity stripe and if Yarou, Sutton, and the freshman big men can shoot in the low 70’s, it will go a long way.

Finally, the Wildcats will have to get back to playing tough Villanova defense. The team simply must get better at sticking with opposing perimeter shooters. Cheating towards the middle opens up the wings and Nova was burned repeatedly last season from beyond the arc when they were unable to recover quickly enough to the outside.

After playing together in Europe over the summer, the team will get its next test against an opposing team in an exhibition match at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, November 8th, before opening the regular season on the 11th against Monmouth at the Pavilion.

Also in attendance at media day was former 76ers head-coach Larry Brown, and former Villanova point guard (and current NBA player) Kyle Lowry.

You can view video interviews with Jay Wright, seven players, and three brief clips of the team practicing by CLICKING HERE.

You can view a complete photo slideshow below:

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Villanova Men’s Basketball Invades Europe

We’re not used to talking Villanova basketball in August, but that was the topic of discussion today on the Main Line as the men’s basketball team prepared for its upcoming trip to Europe.

The Wildcats leave Sunday and will play five games, including two in Paris (Aug. 9-10) and three at EuroJam 2011 in Amsterdam (Aug. 12-14). Villanova will face the national teams of Israel, the Netherlands, and Georgia at EuroJam 2011.

This should be a good test for the Wildcats who are without senior leaders on the court this season. Coach Jay Wright was looking forward to seeing how his juniors and sophomores have improved since the team exited the NCAA tournament in the first round this past March.

“Playing against national teams, many of whom have adult and professional players, will show us what improvements have been made, and what still needs work,” he said.

Junior guard Maalik Wayns is looking forward to heading overseas to play against the competition there, as is sophomore James Bell who recently competed overseas in for the U.S. in the U-19 tournament. Bell is excited to be playing the upcoming set of games with the guys he’ll be playing alongside for the next three years at Villanova.

JayVaughn Pinkston, who missed almost the entire 2010-11 season for an off-campus altercation, is looking forward to putting the last eight months behind him. After working eight hours a day to pay his rent and pass the time, he’s readjusting to a college class schedule and just wants to do what he has to do to be a good teammate.

Villanova will have a much different look this year. Gone are guards Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and forward Antonio Pena (who showed up today with Mike Nardi, Dwayne Anderson, and others to scrimmage the current Wildcats).

The Cats welcome back Pinkston along with a bevy of talented freshman including Marcus Kennedy, Tyrone Johnson, Achraf Yacoubou, and Darrun Hilliard.

It will be interesting to see if Jay Wright will implement more offensive plays for this young team that is vastly different (in size and skill set) from his guard heavy teams of the past. This trip overseas will help the players and the coaching staff see exactly what to expect for the upcoming season.

To view a full photo gallery and video of today’s practice…

CLICK HERE

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Villanova vs. St. John’s: Loss in Home Finale Has Wildcats Seeing Red

Opening Tip

Try as they might, the Wildcats couldn’t weather the Red Storm. Led by Big East player-of-the year candidate Dwight Hardy’s career-high 34 points, St. John’s beat Villanova 81-68 in a nationally televised (ESPN) game at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon.

Maalik Wayns Lay-Up

After Villanova tied the game at 2-2 in the first minute of the game, the Red Storm of St. John’s University took the lead and never relinquished it. Buoyed by a 13-0 run, the Red Storm took an 18-4 lead that forced the Wildcats to play catch up the remainder of the game. Hardy scored 11 of the Red Storm’s first twenty-five points as St. John’s threatened to blow out the Wildcats. To their credit, Villanova battled back led by Corey Stokes, Dominic Cheek, and Maalik Wayns, to cut the Red Storm’s lead to six points at the intermission 41-36.

Dwight Hardy Stroking a Three
Maalik Wayns & Dwight Hardy (Combined for 53 points)
St. John’s half-time lead was built on a foundation of hot shooting and strong rebounding. The Red Storm hit 14 of 29 field goal attempts (48.3%) including a very impressive 8 for 18 from three point range (44.4 %). Hardy and Paris Horne each hit 3 treys in the first half. Hardy had 13 points and Horne 11 points.
D.J. Kennedy Scores Inside
Maalik Wayns Free-Throw

For Villanova, Stokes had 11 points and Cheek 8 points to pace the Wildcats in the first half.

Antonio Pena Baseline Jumper over Justin Burrell

At the start of the second-half, Antonio Pena scored to make it a three-point game 41-38 and aroused the 16,042 fans in attendance at the Wildcats final home game. However, Hardy quickly hit two three-pointers to push the Red Storm out to a 47-40 lead. After Justin Brownlee scored to make it 53-44 with 15:52 left to go, the Wildcats once again clawed their way back into the game as Stokes hit a couple of three-pointers to make it a 55-50 game. Hardy then took charge and scored 5 points on three made free  throw attempts and a sweet layup to stretch the lead back to 61-52.

Paris Horne Swishes the Jumper
Corey Stokes Jumper

Villanova then made another surge and cut the margin to 63-61 on a three-pointer by Stokes. And a few minutes later, when Wayns scored and completed an old-fashioned three-point play, the Cats were within one point of tying the game at 65-64 with 4 minutes left to play. But down the stretch, the Wildcats could not convert and turned the ball over several times, and Hardy and DJ Kennedy were prolific from the charity stripe as the Red Storm outscored Villanova 16-4 to win going away 81-68.

Dominic Cheek Three-Pointer

St. John’s had 4 players in double figures led by Hardy’s 34 (including 5 of 9 from three-point range and 11 of 13 free throws), Kennedy had a double-double with 12 points and 14 boards, Horne finished with a dozen points, and Brownlee added 11.

Maalik Wayns Goes Horizontal
Mouphtaou Yarou: Shot Adjuster

For Villanova Stokes had 20 points, Wayns contributed 19, and Cheek ended up with 11 points. Both Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou had 8 rebounds for the Wildcats, who were outrebounded 39-33 by the Red Storm. Corey Fisher, who had a very rough shooting game, had 7 assists, with only one turnover to go along with his 2 points.

Mouphtaou Yarou Takes it Inside

The Wildcats fell to 21-8 overall, 9-7 in the Big East. With the win, the 23rd ranked Red Storm improved their record under coach Steve Lavin to 19-9 on the season, 11-5 in the Big East.

The Wildcats return to action Monday night (February 28) in South Bend, Indiana, when they take on the nationally ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame at 7 pm in another Big East clash. The game will be televised by ESPN. Villanova will then wrap up their regular season with a rematch against the Big East leading Pittsburgh Panthers on March 5th.
St. John's Coach Steve Lavin
JayVaughn Pinkston Watching From the Stands
Former Villanova Great & Philadelphia Eagle Brian Westbrook

View our full video of Villanova’s post-game press conference with Jay Wright, Maalik Wayns, and Corey Stokes below:

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Villanova vs. Syracuse: Orange Squeeze By Wildcats 69-64

Seniors Honored on Senior Night
The Syracuse Orange, paced by a trio of  former Philly high school players, beat the Villanova Wildcats on Monday night in a nationally televised game at the Wells Fargo Center 69-64.
Scoop Jardine & Brandon Triche
Opening Tip

The Orange’s Philly connection, Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, and Dion Waiters, combined for 45 points, including four key foul shots in the waning moments, to lead Syracuse to the win over Villanova.

Corey Stokes For Three
Corey Stokes For Three (Again)
Corey Stokes For Three (Yet Again)

Villanova was the beneficiary of a gallant performance by senior Corey Stokes, who had missed the three previous games with a turf toe injury. Stokes, who was honored before the game with Villanova’s other senior players, scored 24 points, including 5 three-pointers, to match his season high in that category. Isaiah Armwood was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 12 points. Armwood also had 10 rebounds, as did Antonio Pena.

Rick Jackson Dunk
Philadelphia Native Scoop Jardine
Brandon Triche Dunk Attempt

Villanova came into the game leading the Big East in free throw shooting percentage at 76.8%. But Monday night, the Wildcats were done in by their free throw shooting. The Wildcats missed 10 of 27 free throws, hitting just 17 0f 27 or 63%. In contrast, Syracuse converted 13 of 17 free throws or 76.5 %. Even Corey Stokes who was the leading free throw shooter in the Big East missed three free throws. Prior to last night’s game, Stokes had converted 72 of 77 attempts (93.5%). On Monday Stokes converted 5 of 8.

Antonio Pena Dunk
Corey Fisher Went 0 of 8 from Three Point Range
Corey Fisher Drives the Lane

Villanova had an early 6-0 lead, but the Orange went on a 13-1 run to take the lead by a 13-7 margin. Despite several runs by Villanova, the Wildcats could not retake the lead. Nova missed 12 straight field goal attempts from 18:24 to 9:41 of the first half. However, the first-half ended with the Orange ahead by only two points 29-27 after a series of lane violation calls against Syracuse while Armwood was at the line. After the second lane violation, Syracuse was also called for a technical foul resulting in two additional free-throws (taken by Corey Stokes).

Scoop Jardine Jumper
Rick Jackson Hook Shot

In the second half, Villanova fell behind several times by 9 points. Each time the Wildcats rallied and eventually cut Syracuse’s lead to one point, 57-56, with 5:28 left in the game (when Stokes was fouled shooting a three- pointer and then converted all 3 free throws. Jardine, however, scored 4 straight points to push Syracuse’s lead back to 61-56. Stokes hit a tree-pointer to again slice the Orange’s lead to one point 61-60.

Antonio Pena Put Back
Corey Fisher Double Clutch

Once again, one of the Cuse’s Philly guys, Rick Jackson, scored a bucket to keep the Wildcats at arm’s length 63-60. After a Brandon Triche basket for Syracuse made it 65-60, Stokes scored a basket to make it a one possession game with 48 seconds remaining. Waiters then missed the front end of a one and one free throw opportunity to give the Wildcats more hope. Isaiah Armwood converted two free throws to make it a 65-64 game with 21.7 seconds to go. However, Waiters  and Jackson made 4 clutch  free throws in the last seconds to preserve the Orange’s victory.

Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim

With the win Syracuse ran its record to 23-6,10-6 in the Big East. With the loss, the Wildcats fell to 21-7 overall, and 9-6 in the Big East. Villanova next plays Big East rival St. John’s on Saturday afternoon at 2 pm, February 26th, at the Wells Fargo Center. This will be the Wildcats final home game of the season.

The Two Corey's Jerseys

Before the game Seniors Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena, Corey Stokes, and Russell Wooten were recognized and honored by the crowd of 18,899.

Boxed Out

Also of note: Maurice Sutton who had played very well in Villanova’s victory over Syracuse earlier in the season did not dress for the game for violating team rules and Maalik Wayns was forced to leave the game with back spasms.

Philadelphia Flyers Dan Carcillo & Jeff Carter

Several professional athletes watched the game from court-side including players from both the Eagles and Flyers.

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean "Shady" McCoy

You can view full video of both Villanova’s and Syracuse’s post-game press conferences below and can see an expanded photo gallery with 50+ additional photos by CLICKING HERE.  

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Villanova vs. Pittsburgh: Panthers Claw Out Win in Battle of the Cats

The Pitt Panthers (23-2, 11-1 Big East) narrowly held on to edge the Villanova Wildcats (19-6, 7-5 Big East) 57-54  in a Big East brawl that snapped Villanova’s 46 game win streak at the Pavilion.
Led by Philadelphia area players Brad Wanamaker (with 21 points) and Nasir Robinson (with 15 points), the Panthers almost coughed up an 11 point lead, with 5:12 left to play, when Villanova ran off 8 straight points to cut the Panther’s margin to 52-49 at the 3:09 mark. Wanamaker scored a basket and converted a foul shot to keep the Panthers in front 55-49. The Wildcats were still not finished and when Antonio Pena hit a three pointer (only his second of the season) with 58.1 seconds to go it was a one possession game 57-54.
Pena stole the ball from Wanamaker on the ensuing possession giving the College Game Day crowd visions of a tie to force overtime or even a miracle finish. But alas, Dominic Cheek missed a three-point shot and the clock ran out a split second before Maalik Wayns hit a three pointer that would have sent the game into overtime and the crowd into a frenzy.
Both teams were shorthanded for the game. Ashton Gibbs sat out for the Panthers with an injury and Corey Stokes (with a turf toe injury) was a no go for the Wildcats in what would have been his final game at the Pavilion.
Villanova and Pitt both shot poorly from three point range. Villanova converted 3 for 15 or 20% for the game. Pitt hit only 1 for 10 or 10% for the game. Overall Pitt converted 18 of 46 field-goal attempts (39.1%), while Villanova shot 18-50 or 36%. Pitt lost the battle of the boards by a 36 to 28 margin. However Pitt converted 20 of 30 foul shot attempts compared to Villanova hitting 15 of  20.
Villanova, which led at the half by a 27-23 margin, lost its second straight game. The loss at the Pavilion was the first suffered by the Villanova seniors in their career.
Villanova was paced by Mouphtaou Yarou who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Maalik Wayns added 13 points, Corey Fisher, who was plagued by foul problems and eventually fouled out, scored 11 points, and Antonio Pena contributed 10 points. For the Panthers only Wanamaker and Robinson scored in double figures. Robinson also collected 7 rebounds to pace the Panthers.
In the final analysis, Pitt’s 15-2 run in the second-half,which began after a tecnical foul was called on Villanova’s Isaiah Armwood, was the key to breaking the Wildcats 46 game winning streak at the Pavilion. The Wildcats were leading 32-27 at the time the technical was called. By the time the run ended, Pitt had built a 42-34 lead, which the Wildcats valiantly tried to overcome, to give the enthusiastic Game Day crowd (and a national television audience on ESPN) a fitting conclusion to a great day on campus.
Next up for the Wildcats is an away game against Seton Hall at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, February 15th. Pitt returns home to play South Florida on February 16th.
At halftime, former Wildcat great Randy Foye was honored. Earlier in the day his jersey was retired and hung in the rafters alongside the jerseys of other great Villanova players. Kerry Kittles, Villanova’s all-time scoring leader, participated in the halftime ceremony honoring Foye. Ryan Howard, the Phillies star first-baseman, was also in attendance.

To view our full gallery of College Game Day photos CLICK HERE

To view our full photo gallery (will be available on Sunday evening) from the Villanova vs. Pitt game CLICK HERE

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