Friday, December 22, 2017

I’ll Be Quirky: Villanova

Not pictured: Jay Wright watching the winning shot in the air and saying "Bang."

A return “home” marked the end of the Flying Dutchmen’s high-wire act winning streak Wednesday night, when a late comeback fell short as Manhattan hung on for a 63-61 win at Adelphi. Here’s a look back at the loss to the Jaspers and a look ahead to tonight, when the Dutchmen hit the “road” and cross the street to Nassau Coliseum (it’s all very confusing), where they will face old friend Jay Wright and no. 1 Villanova.

The Dutchmen trailed by eight points in the final minute but had two chances in the last 15 seconds to take the lead before falling against Manhattan. Justin Wright-Foreman missed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 14 seconds left and was surrounded in the corner before committing a turnover as time expired. Wright-Foreman (22 points) once again led all players in scoring while Rokas Gustys (10 points, 13 rebounds) snapped out of a slump with a double-double. Eli Pemberton added 11 points, though he was just 2-of-8 from the field.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Manhattan 12/20)
3: Justin Wright-Foreman
2: Rokas Gustys
1: Eli Pemberton

Justin Wright-Foreman 27
Rokas Gustys 13
Eli Pemberton 13
Desure Buie 4
Joel Angus 4
Jalen Ray 3
Hunter Sabety 1

The Dutchmen scored 61 points, their second-lowest output of the season and the 25th time in the Joe Mihalich Era the team has scored fewer than 65 points. The Dutchmen are 4-21 in those contests, 13 of which took place during his first season in 2013-14.

Rokas Gustys pulled down 13 rebounds against Manhattan Wednesday as he moved within striking distance of two more notable names on the CAA’s all-time list. Gustys (1,051 rebounds) enters tonight as the seventh-most prolific rebounder in league history but could move into the top five with a routine outing against Villanova. He is five rebounds away from surpassing UNCW’s Keith Rendleman for sixth place and nine rebounds away from moving past Drexel’s Samme Givens for fifth place. Gustys is just 65 rebounds away from second-place Vernon Butler (1,115) and 264 rebounds away from moving ahead of Hall of Famer David Robertson (1,314) atop the list.

The game will be carried live on Fox Sports 1. You have three-plus hours to find Fox Sports 1 on your cable system. Hofstra will carry live audio and offer live stats here.

Villanova is 11-0 and ranked no. 1 in the country this week. The Wildcats are good. (Wait, you wanted more?) Villanova was picked to win the Big East this season and opened the year as the sixth-ranked team in the AP poll.

Of the 11 victories Villanova has earned, eight have come by at least 10 points and five have been by at least 20 points, including their most recent victory, an 87-67 triumph over Temple on Dec. 13. The Wildcats’ closest win was a 66-58 victory over Western Kentucky on Nov. 22.

At today, Hofstra is ranked 151st while Villanova is—hold on, let me crane my neck skyward—ranked first. Per the wise guys, for entertainment purposes only and especially since you should never bet against Jay Wright, the Dutchmen are 21-point underdogs. Hofstra is 3-4 against the spread this season.

Jalen Brunson (18.5 ppg) leads a whopping five Villanova players averaging in double figures. The Wildcats’ no. 6 scorer, redshirt sophomore Eric Paschall, was recruited to Fordham by Tom Pecora and transferred to Villanova after Pecora was fired for failing to turn water into wine.

Hofstra is 0-4 against Villanova, whom it last faced Dec. 27, 1997, when the Wildcats earned an 86-74 win over Jay Wright and the Flying Dutchmen.  Joe Mihalich lost his lone meeting against Villanova on Nov. 19, 2008, when the host Wildcats beat Niagara, 77-72.

Hofstra is 6-33 all-time against current Big East schools. This will be the Dutchmen’s first game against a Big East opponent since a 72-60 loss to St. John’s in the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 20, 2009. Hofstra earned its most recent win against a Big East team on Dec. 29, 2006, when it beat St. John’s, 63-51, in the Holiday Festival championship game at MSG. Twenty-seven of the Dutchmen’s Big East games have been against St. John’s.

Jay Wright, as you might know, used to coach at Hofstra and raised the program from the near-dead from 1994 through 2001, during which he went 122-85 and led the Dutchmen to their two most recent NCAA Tournament appearances in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. Wright ranks fourth in Hofstra coaching history in winning percentage (.589), fourth in games coached and fifth in wins.

Tonight will mark the first time an active national championship-winning coach has played a former employer while his current squad is ranked no. 1 in the country. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who began his head coaching career at Army, has twice faced Army while Duke was ranked in the top three. The Blue Devils were ranked second when they beat Army 91-48 on Nov. 25, 2000 and ranked third prior to a 78-45 win on Nov. 16, 1997.

This will be just the eighth time an active national championship-winning head coach plays a former employer. Krzyzewski is 6-0 against Army while Kansas’ Bill Self directed the Jayhawks to a 73-59 win over Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Mar. 20, 2011. 

The Dutchmen are 3-8 all-time at Nassau Coliseum. This will be the program’s first game across the street since a Wright-coached squad beat St. John’s, 86-80, on Dec. 16, 2000. The Dutchmen went 1-1 at Nassau Coliseum under Wright, who presided over an 83-55 loss on Jan. 31, 1996. Not saying that was a long time ago, but I was there. As a student.

Perfect game bias! (Villanova won its first national title by shooting 78.6 percent against Georgetown in a 66-64 win in the final pre-shot clock game)
Harold Jensen bias! (The sixth man was actually perfect—he hit all five field goal attempts and all four free throws—in the win over Georgetown. Plus he’s from Connecticut)
You had football and dropped it but brought it back and then won a national title bias! (Sigh)
We were never getting any calls anyway and we don’t care because we can’t bring ourselves to shout Jay Wright bias! (twist ending!)

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