Ironically, the last Philadelphia school to get in the 2008 NCAA tournament is now the only team to survive the opening round. Villanova beat Clemson 75-69 in one of the last games of the night – and it was a great one.
Villanova struggled to handle Clemson’s relentless pressure in the first half committing the bulk of their 19 turnovers in the opening 20-minutes. That helped the Tigers get up on Nova by as much as 18 and took a 12-point lead into the half. The Wildcats are no strangers to halftime deficits, trailing at the half in 15 of their 33 games this season. But Nova has Jay Wright, the “King of the 2nd Half Adjustments.” He has been able to make the right changes and motivate his guys to come out focused in the second half to finish the game strong. In those 15 game where Villanova trailed they have come back to win 6 times (40%). And they did just that against Clemson.
Keys to the Second Half Comeback
- Handling the pressure down the stretch. Nova settled down, limited their turnovers and was able to break the press for scores in the 2nd half.
- Solid defense and rebounding. The Wildcats held Clemson to 30 points in the second half on 7-29 from the field and out rebounded the very athletic Clemson Tigers 31-28.
- Scottie Reynolds – No matter how much we hate his often erratic play and questionable shot selection this guy is the leader on Villanova and he showed it last night. Reynolds scored 21 points shooting 7-12 from the field and was the catalyst for the comeback.
- Free throws – The numbers say it all: Nova shot a fantastic 24-29 from the line while Clemson’s Achilles heel hurt them again only shooting 14-23. You can’t win in the hyper-competitive NCAA tournament shooting that poorly from the line.
With #13 Siena upsetting #4 Vanderbilt, Nova is in a good position to reach the Sweet 16. This coming after all the speculation Nova wouldn’t even get in the tournament this year. But please don’t think I am overlooking Siena, they scare me a little bit. The Vandy isn’t even the best team they beat this season. Siena beat Stanford by 12 early in the year. But it looks like Nova will finally face a team they are a little bigger than inside. Siena’s tallest starter is only 6’7 and they only bring in a 6’9 kid for minor minutes.
NOTE: The last time Villanova played Siena was in the NIT tournament in 02′ – 03′. They lost in that first round game 74-59.
I heard by far the best Scottie Reynolds play-by-play quote ever last night: “All these baskets are coming Reynolds wrapped.” Love that!