No. 22 Notre Dame 66, Villanova 63
Jan. 27, 2007
The win by Notre Dame in today's game:
Today's contest was a matchup of the top two free-throw shooting teams in the conference. Entering the game, Villanova led the BIG EAST (fourth in nation) with a 77.5% mark from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, Notre Dame ranked second in the BIG EAST (17th in nation) with 74.7% accuracy at the line. The Fighting Irish won the battle of foul shots in today's game, particularly in the final five minutes.
The Wildcats were not as sharp from the free throw line in the home stretch of today's game as they typically have been this season. Villanova went 3-for-7 (43%) from the line in the last two minutes of the contest, while Notre Dame was 7-for-10 (70%) in the final five minutes of the game. Entering the game, the Wildcats had made 84% (99-of-118) of its free throws in the final two minutes of games.
Villanova missed its first six three-point attempts of the game before senior Mike Nardi and freshman Reggie Redding hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc in a span of 24 seconds. The Wildcats have made at least one three-pointer in 319 straight games dating back to the 1997 season. This season, there has been just one half of a game in which Villanova did not make a three-pointer. In a 64-51 win at La Salle on December 23, the Wildcats went 0-for-9 from long distance in the second half.
The offensive pace in today's game was starkly different from the first meeting between these teams just 10 days ago. In the contest at the Pavilion on January 17, Villanova and Notre Dame combined for 189 points in a 102-87 victory by the Wildcats. Villanova led that game 50-40 at halftime, while in today's game the teams combined for just 46 points in the first half (Wildcats led 25-21 at the intermission).
Sophomore forward Dante Cunningham scored in double figures for the fourth straight game. All seven of Cunningham's double-figure scoring games have come this season. He has been particularly effective in these last four games, however. In that span, Cunningham has averaged 14.8 points per game while shooting 59.5 percent (22-of-37) from the field. In his first 16 games, Cunningham averaged 7.6 points per game.
Although this afternoon's game represented another strong effort from Cunningham, one notable streak did come to an end for the Wildcats in today's game. Entering the game, Villanova had a record of 12-0 on the season when Cunningham attempted four or more field goals. In comparison the Wildcats are 1-5 one Cunningham attempts three of fewer field goals.
Freshman guard Scottie Reynolds scored 19 points and sophomore forward Dante Cunningham added 11 points as the pair combined for 30 points in the game, nearly half of the 63 Villanova points for the afternoon. The duo has been an impressive scoring punch in the last four games. Through the first 16 games of the season, Reynolds and Cunningham combined for 23.1 percent of the team's points (17.5 out of 75.8). In the last four games, the pair has combined for 46.8 percent of the team's points (37.8 out of 80.8).
Over the past three games, freshman guard Reggie Redding has seen a total of 70 minutes of action, averaging better than 23 minutes per game in that span. Over the course of the three games, Redding has compiled 11 points, eight rebounds, seven steals and just one turnover. He averaged just 6.9 minutes per game through the first 17 games of the season but is now averaging 10.2 minutes per contest. For the season, Redding is averaging 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game with totals of 11 assists, nine turnovers and 11 steals.
Villanova had been 12-1 this season when it took a lead into halftime. The Wildcats led 25-21 at the break in today's game before falling by a final score of 66-63. The only other game in which Villanova lost a game it led at halftime came at home against Drexel on December 9. In that game, the Wildcats led 45-38 at the intermission but suffered an 81-76 setback to the Dragons.
Villanova led 25-21 at halftime and has had the lead at the break in each of the four games during its current winning streak. The combined point total in the opening period (46) made it the lowest scoring half of the season for the Wildcats. Previously, Villanova and Texas combined for 49 points in the first half of a game on January 20. The Wildcats led that game 26-23 at halftime and went on to a 76-69 victory.
For the second straight game, sophomore forwards Shane Clark and Dante Cunningham spent significant time on the bench in foul trouble. Unlike the game against Providence on Tuesday night, the pair was in foul trouble in the second half of this afternoon's game. Cunningham picked up three fouls in the first 1:35 of the second half. The Wildcats held their own with the pair of players out of the game, playing Notre Dame even during a combined time of 3:51 when neither player was in the game. Despite a nine-point victory against the Friars on Tuesday, Villanova had a minus-seven scoring margin in the 8:41 that Clark and Cunningham were both on the bench. In the previous six games prior to the Providence contest, there was a total of just 5:58 when neither player was on the floor.
The matchup between Villanova and Notre Dame puts forth a major difference in style of play. While the Fighting Irish entered the game as the second-leading three-point shooting team in the BIG EAST, the Wildcats ranked last in the conference in three-point field goal defense. In the first meeting between the teams, Notre Dame made 15 three-pointers but did so in a losing effort as Villanova won 102-87. In tonight's game, the Fighting Irish were just 5-of-20 (25.0%) from beyond the arc but pulled out a three-point victory.
In the waning seconds of the game, the Wildcats had three chances to potentially make a game-tying three-pointer and send the game to overtime. Although Villanova was unable to connect on an equalizer, three of its six three-pointers in the game did give the Wildcats the lead.
There were 11 ties and eight lead-changes in the game. The teams were never separated by more than eight points at any point in the contest.