As I mentioned in my first post-mortum of the 'Nova game, there were quite a few opportunities presented to the Moutaineers of which they did not take advantage. When you're playing a top five team and the words silver platter could be used, you know you've been fortunate. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers, time-after-time, squandered those chances.
The extended low in the "lead safe" line, from when we were down 11 with over 10 minutes to go and about the two-minute mark, was our clear opportunity. Each time a significant dip occured, it wasn't followed up by a further decline. Instead, the line immediately spiked back up, allowing Villanova to keep a strong lead with diminishing time on the clock. Let's look individually at each major scenario:
- 8:13 remaining - Villanova 62 WVU 59: This is when the game starts to present itself to the Mountaineers. Ebanks has just tomahawked a dunk and the Coliseum is rocking. Villanova chooses not to take a TO, as the media timeout is just around the corner. Instead, they come down and draw a foul against Casey Mitchell. They make both free throws and increase the lead to five. Next trip down, Ebanks turns the ball over 19 seconds into the possession.
- 7:17 remaining - Villanova 64 WVU 61: Ebanks has just turned the ball over, but Villanova has given it right back, with Kevin Jones converting a layup to get us back within three. Big defensive possession coming, which of course, fails miserably. A Reggie Redding assist leads to a Antonio Pena dunk, which becomes a common theme.
- 5:52 remaining - Villanova 68 WVU 64: Truck has just hit a huge three, restoring the deficit to a very manageable four points. Another huge defensive possession, which results in, yes you guessed: an Antonio Pena dunk. Not only are these points hurtful to our cause, they deflate the excitement from the Coliseum. Just all-around bad stuff.
- 4:50 remaining - Villanova 70 WVU 64: Just a comedy of errors on both ends. 'Nova's Taylor King misses not one, but two layups in quick succession. WVU rebounds, comes down the floor, and Butler misses a quick three -- something that is another trend in this game, bad quick shots. Flowers rebounds, however, and is fouled by Scottie Reynolds. Of course, he misses the front-end of the 1-and-1. In the next minute and a half, Villanova would turn the ball over and miss two more layups, yet the Mountaineers seize on none of these mistakes, and the score remainds 70-64 until 'Nova finally makes two foul shots.
- 1:59 remaining - Villanova 74 -- WVU 69: Casey Mitchell has converted a four point play, and the Mountaineers have one real chance at a big stand on defense. The Wildcats run 29 seconds of shot clock and beat the WVU defense for a Corey Stokes layup. The lead is seven and the threat is largely over.
Those five key moments pretty much sum up the game on Monday. WVU had it's chances, but each and every time, we failed to play fundamental basketball in order to capitalize on Villanova's mistakes. Villanova may have won, but it wasn't because they were the much better team.
I can't tell you with any definition which WVU player was most effective on Monday night, but I can certainly tell you who was least effective: Joe Mazzulla. During his stretches of playing time, the WVU offense didn't just stall, it went in complete reverse. His +/- for his time on the court was a staggeringly bad -13. On the other end of the spectrum, Casey Mitchell was an impressive +11, all in the second half. And our other point guard, one that has gotten equally bad treatment in the press (and on this blog), was a very respectable +1.
It's interesting looking at numbers like this, because I thought Truck's game on Monday wasn't good. It wasn't terrible, but his defense and decision-making let us down a lot. But there's that stat -- +1 for this time on the court -- staring me in the face. Maybe we're too hard on Truck for this game, who knows? My head tells me one thing, the stats tell me another.