We were prepared for it. Villanova cut a 12-point lead to three in the course of four minutes. Anthony Collins was out of the game with concussion-like symptoms. Ron Anderson Jr. and Augustus Gilchrist were each saddled with four fouls, and Villanova was taking advantage of their size advantage down low.
But then Jawanza Poland hit a jumper. And then another basket by Poland. Gus hit two free throws. Nova started missing shots. Jawanza nailed a cold-blooded three, and just like that the lead was back out to 10 in just two minutes.
The Bulls (9-7, 2-1) pulled away from there and grabbed a huge 74-57 win over the Villanova Wildcats (7-8, 0-3) tonight at The Pavilion.
Poland led all scorers with 20 points to go along with four rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Blake Nash handled the point guard duties with Collins out and had his best game as a Bull, going for 12 points, six assists, four rebounds, and most importantly, one lone turnover. Maalik Wayns had 17 points to lead the Wildcats.
Everyone had a big part in the game, so let's just go into some rambling-style bullet points:
- Ron was having a monster game down low, grabbing eight points and five rebounds in only 18 minutes before fouling out. Ron's mini run early in the second half gave USF the space it needed before stretching the lead to 12. Ron did give up a couple of cheap fouls, and he has to remember how valuable this minutes are for us this year.
- What a job by the bench tonight. USF had 48 points off the bench tonight. Let me repeat that for you. 48 points. 48. Points. Our 4 man bench outscored our entire team's effort against Auburn a few weeks ago. We talked about Ron, Jawanza, and Blake, but Victor Rudd had his best effort since the Marist game. Victor had 8 points and 10 rebounds while being forced to play out of position at the 4 when we were saddles with foul trouble.
- Collins was running the team well before being hip-checked by Achraf Yacoubou, which sent him flying and landing awkwardly on his back and head. AC looked OK after spending a couple of minutes on the bench, but being held out in the second half isn't good. Let's hope he's better and ready to go against Notre Dame.
- One of our big keys was controlling the rebounding battle, and USF passed with flying colors tonight. The Bulls outrebounded Nova 38-26, including a 10-7 advantage on the offensive glass. USF kept Mouphtaou Yarou and Markus Kennedy well below their rebounding averages, only letting those two combine for 5 rebounds.
- 20-22 from the free throw line. That's 90.9% on the night. Beautiful.
- Another key was keeping Villanova on the perimeter, where they just aren't as effective. The Wildcats had another horrible shooting night from three-point range. While most of these shots were during desperation mode, VU only shot 4-20 from three.
Shaun Noriega had one basket on the night, but he made it count with a four-point play that effectively killed the crowd except for Nova's brief rally.
- Gus had his moments, but he had some big baskets and a couple of offensive rebounds that ran down the clock.
- Toarlyn Fitzpatrick was asked to be more of a defender with Gus and Ron on the bench, but he still his some big shots and ended up with 10 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Plus his two insane three pointers were just fun to watch, even if one of them didn't count because the shot clock expired. You figured it would be USF's night when they went in.
- Hugh didn't put up the points or rebounds we've seen in recent games, but his defensive work against the Nova guards was off the charts.
- JAWANZA! just took over. That run in the second half to pull away is something that we haven't seen since Dominique Jones. With Nash running the point, it allowed Poland to play with the ball in his hands more, and he took advantage. Just wonder what the first half of the year would have been like had he and Collins been healthy.
The Bulls now head over to South Bend to take on Notre Dame this Tuesday. Game is scheduled for 7:00 PM and will be aired on BHSN and the Big East Network.