Nova Notebook: Armwood's Attitude Kept Him Ready
Nov. 20, 2009
The Nova Notebook, by director of media relations Mike Sheridan, takes us inside the Wildcats' come from behind 69-68 victory over the George Mason Patriots in the opening round of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tipoff at Coliseo de Puerto Rico.
SAN JUAN - In Jay Wright's mind, what Isaiah Armwood did with time ticking down on Thursday afternoon and his team behind by a deuce to George Mason, had as much to do with his frame of mind in the 36 minutes he didn't play as it did with the four minutes he did.
"That shot was possible," stated Wright of Armwood's game-winning 3-point goal from the wing with 17 seconds left, "because Isaiah kept a great attitude. You don't make that shot if you're sitting over there for 36 minutes pouting."
Remarkably enough, the basket was the first of Armwood's college career. He had only attempted one field goal in limited action in his first two college appearances prior to his trip here to the commonwealth. But when senior guard Scottie Reynolds spotted him open on the wing, Armwood never hesitated.
"Scottie drove the ball into the lane and I was open on the wing," said Armwood. "He had the confidence to pass me the ball and I made the shot. It felt good when it left my hand but it felt better when the game was over and we had won."
To that point it had been a decidedly uphill battle for the Wildcats. George Mason scored eight of the game's first 10 points and the lead grew to 21-8 with 9:59 to go in the first half. Villanova, playing without starting center Mouphtaou Yarou who returned to Philadelphia to undergo tests for a viral infection, never could get fully untracked and trailed 37-28 at intermission.
"This was one of those games," observed Armwood, "where not much goes your way. But we stayed together and kept battling."
Villanova pulled even at 44 and grabbed its first lead with 7:05 left in the game when Reynolds sank a short jumper at 56-54. But George Mason regained the lead a short while later and the `Cats found themselves down 67-63 after a pair of Luke Hancock free throws with 47 seconds left. Freshman Maalik Wayns sank a pivotal triple with 41 seconds left. A Sherrod Wright free throw pushed the lead to two and that set up Armwood's heroics.
Armwood returned to the court when Maurice Sutton fouled out - the fourth Wildcat to do that - with 1:00 remaining in the second half. And he was ready.
"Isaiah knows the game," noted Reynolds. "When we tell him something one time he goes out and does it. You don't have to tell him again. And he never sulks. He knows his role."
On the final offensive sequence, Reynolds took the ball into the lane, where the Patriots converged upon him.
"When I got into the lane I could see all five defenders below me so I knew Isaiah was open," Reynolds, who finished with 18 points, said. "I threw it back to him and the slot on the wing is kind of his sweet spot. The only thing I didn't know was that it was a 3 - I thought it was a two when he shot it."
Added Armwood: "Scottie drove the ball into the lane and I was open on the wing. He had the confidence to pass me the ball and I made the shot. It felt good when it left my hand but it felt better when the game was over and we had won."
To get to that stage, though, Villanova had to get a defensive stop. There were 13 seconds left after George Mason inbounded the ball, leaving ample time to set up a final field goal attempt. But the Wildcats, with three freshmen on the court, kept the Patriots in front of them and the clock expired without a shot.
"I apologize to all of you who had to watch that," quipped Wright in his opening statement following the game. "We didn't play the way we wanted to but you have to credit George Mason for that. They had a great game plan and really forced the tempo."
Wright was happy to head into the rainy San Juan night with the win. But he was equally as delighted to see how his touted youngsters came through at crunch time, with so many of the veterans on the bench.
"It was kind of a glimpse into the future," he stated.
And part of that future undoubtedly included the lanky 6-7 forward from Montrose Christian School.
"We really think Isaiah can be a very good player in this program," stated Wright. "He's smart, understands the game and has great skills. We just need him to mature a bit physically so he can play the kind of game he's capable of at this level. I'm really proud of how ready he was when the chance came."
"A lot of things went wrong today," noted Armwood, "and I just tried to keep a good attitude and be ready."
He was that and his mature mindset helped lift Villanova out of a tough spot and into a clash with Dayton in the semifinals here Friday.