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Pesky Villanova Wildcats Turn Pitt Over in Win

Villanova's Malcolm Grant's quick hands knocks the ball loose from Pittsburgh's Ronald Ramon.Dante Cunningham’s 2 clutch free throws may have sealed the win for Nova, but it was 22 forced turnovers that made the difference for the Wildcats.  10 seconds left and a chance to win the game Pitt went to its bread and butter end-game play (see the win vs. Duke).  But without the playmaking ability of Levance Fields and against the quick hands and feet of Villanova, that play ended the same way the entire game played out for Pittsburgh.  With a turnover. 

This was a great bounce back win for Nova coming off a disappointing loss to DePaul in their Big East opener.  The Blue Demons shot 51% in that game, and it was apparent from the start of today’s game that Jay Wright had his team pick up the defensive intensity against Pitt.  Full-court pressing and trapping most of the game combined with a depleted back-court for the Panthers resulted in 11 steals and 22 points off turnovers for Nova. 

That suffocating defense and 39-7 bench scoring difference was just enough for Villanova to overcome a poor shooting day (33% from the field & 27% from behind the arc) and a sub-par game from leading scorer Scottie Reynolds (1-6 fgs 4pts).  With the game on the line, Reynolds did make a great pass that ultimately lead to Cunningham‘s game-winning free throws. Freshman Malcolm Grant picked up the scoring load with a career high 22 points on 6-12 from the field while suffering leg cramps late. 

“He’s incredible. He’s a freshman but he’s the heart and soul of our team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said about Grant. “I try to diminish that but I can’t. He’s really energized our team since he’s gotten here.”

Pittsburgh got another monster game inside from freshman DeJuan Blair (12pts & 15 boards) who gave the Panthers their last lead of the game with a fall-away shot after being bumped in the lane.

This was the Wildcats 5th straight victory over Pitt in the last 5 meetings at the Pavilion.  Hopefully Nova, currently ranked 16th in the country, won’t drop far in the rankings, having redeemed themselves after the DePaul loss against a tough, 13th-ranked conference foe.


The Year of the Freshman, Part 2

Greg Oden being ridiculousA couple years ago, most high school seniors capable of dominating on the college level were going straight to the pros. Year 1 of the NBA age limit came and went without any huge impact freshman. Year 2 brought us Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, two of the greatest freshman players in NCAA history. Year 3 – well, year 3 is just ridiculous.Of the 73 programs in the major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-10 and SEC), 18 are currently being led in scoring by a freshman (24.6%). 37 of those teams have a freshman in their top 3 in scoring (50.6%). The top 7 picks on NBADraft.net’s 2008 Mock Draft are all freshman. 9 of their 13 lottery picks are freshman. The top 2 scorers, top rebounder and top FG% in the country, among the major conferences, are freshman.While Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love get most of the media attention, this is probably the deepest freshman class the NCAA has seen in quite some time. Below are 27 freshman (ranked by PPG, not talent-level), all of whom have a chance to be all-conference performers this year. Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. showed last year freshman can lead their team to the final four – it looks like we will be saying the same about a least a team or two this year.

  1. Michael Beasley, F, Kansas St – 24.9 ppg, 13.9 rpg
  2. Eric Gordon, G, Indiana – 24.4 ppg, .543 FG%
  3. O.J. Mayo, G, USC – 19.6 ppg, 1.9 spg
  4. Donte Green, F, Syracuse – 19.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg
  5. Andrew Ogilvy, C, Vanderbilt – 19.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg
  6. Jerryd Bayless, G, Arizona – 18.8 ppg, 4.3 apg
  7. J.J. Hickson, F, NC State – 18.0 ppg, .708 FG%
  8. James Anderson, F, OK St. – 17.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
  9. Kevin Love, C, UCLA – 16.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg
  10. James Harden, G, Arizona St. – 16.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg
  11. Dominique Jones, G, South Florida – 16.5 ppg, 2.3 spg
  12. Patrick Patterson, F, Kentucky – 16.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg
  13. Manny Harris, G, Michigan – 16.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg
  14. Nick Calathes, G, Florida – 15.8 ppg, 5.5 apg
  15. Kosta Koufos, C, Ohio St. – 15.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg
  16. Derrick Rose, G, Memphis – 15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg
  17. Davon Jefferson, F, USC – 14.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg
  18. Jonny Flynn, G, Syracuse – 14.3 ppg, 6.3 apg
  19. Chris Warren, G, Ole Miss – 14.2 ppg, 5.8 apg
  20. Anthony Randolph, F, LSU – 13.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg
  21. Kyle Singler, F, Duke – 13.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg
  22. Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma – 13.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg
  23. Craig Brackens, F, Iowa St. – 12.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg
  24. James Johnson, F, Wake Forest – 12.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg
  25. DeJuan Blair, F, Pitt – 12.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg
  26. Corey Fisher, G, Villanova – 11.9 ppg, 3.1 apg
  27. Austin Daye, F, Gonzaga – 11.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg
  28. DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M – 10.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg