The Bearcats are on the road in Philadelphia today getting ready to take on the Wildcats of Villanova the third and obviously final mirror opponent of the season. The last time out these two teams played a rather strange game. It was all offense all the time. Both teams were way over the crucial 1 PPP barrier (UC 1.13, Nova 1.08). Malik Wayns had arguably the best indivigual game of the Big East season with 39 points (72.8! true shooting%), 13 rebounds and 6 assists, and Nova still lost.
On the UC side of the equation it was par for the course at that point in the season. Yancy Gates, Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick scored in double figures. Dixon led all scorers with 22 points using his characteristic 36 per cent shooting, including 25 per cent of 2's but hitting 57 per cent of his threes.
Since the last match up these two teams have gone their separate ways in the standings. UC still has a reasonable, though not exactly great chance to get a double bye in the Garden. All that is needed is losses from Georgetown (@Marquette) and USF (vs. West Virginia) because Notre Dame already beat Providence last night. What UConn did aside I don't have to remind anyone how beneficial a double bye is in the Big East tournament.
Nova meanwhile has slowly spiraled downward since the start of Big East play. The wildcats have won just 4 Big East games on the year, the best of the bunch coming at home against Seton Hall. They have also had two losing streaks spanning at least four games in BE play.
Part of the problem has been injuries. Wayns has missed three games, this will be his third back. James Bell missed three games in a row before returning against Rutgers. Jayvaughn Pinkston hasn't missed a game but has been slowed by a fluke lay up line injury. He played two minutes against Georgetown and was noticeably gimpy against the Scarlet Knights.
Speaking of that Rutgers game it really was a tale of two halves. In the first Nova could not miss. It was unreal to watch a team that had struggled oh so mightily for most of this season suddenly hit everything in sight. 70 per cent shooting from the field, 80 per cent from three. And it wasn't like these guys were just running and chucking it either. 12 of the 18 made field goals were assisted. Oh and the assist to turnover ratio was a solid 1.5
The second half was a completely different story. 70 per cent from the field magically became 27. 80 per cent from three became 25 and though the percentage of buckets assisted was an identical 67 per cent Nova only made 6 second half field goals. Oh and it's never a good thing when turnover are double FGM. Ever.
UC has a better team than Villanova. Stronger, older, deeper, more experienced. Just better. But that doesn't mean this is a game to write off. The Bearcats have never beaten Nova in Philadelphia since coming to the Big East. It's an early game, a terrible sign for this team this year. (see: Florida, South) and it's the last game of the year for a Villanova team that won't be playing again until the fall. This is a tricky one to be sure, but it's a game that UC can and should win.