The First Basketball team hosted Villanova College Wednesday afternoon in a critical CISAA league game. With a full, healthy roster, the Saints were hoping to get back to playing hard, smart, and together - the formula that saw them have so much success in the beginning of the season. This was the case for the majority of the game; however, the CISAA D1 league is so strong, that you have to bring your best for a full 32 minutes to succeed and get a win.
In the opening quarter, the Saints executed very well on offence. A variety of pass-and-cut, drive-and-kick, and circle-back action saw the Saints get some great opportunities to score. They also fed the post to take advantage of mismatches. As a result, they were able to score a respectable 15 points in the quarter.
Defensively, the Saints implemented a new trapping defence to slow down Villanova's transition attack. They did a good job of slowing them down, and the entire first half was a back-and-forth battle that ended in a slim 31-26 margin for Villanova.
In the third quarter, the Saints continued to slow down Villanova and force them to run halfcourt sets. Unfortunately, defensive communication on screens was poor and Villanova was able to get layup opportunities on cross screens that weren't defended well.
The Saints tried to respond, and once again when they executed well they got good perimeter looks. Zakhar Karakulkin led an 8-0 run that allowed the Saints to close the gap early in the fourth quarter. With the game within 6 points, the Saints played tremendous zone defence on three possessions in a row, forcing Villanova deep into the shot clock. They forced a tough shot...and then completely forgot to box anyone out. Villanova grabbed offensive rebounds, kicked back out to shooters for open shots, and nailed three dagger perimeter jumpers to break the game open. The Saints tried to respond with jumpers of their own but couldn't get anything to fall.
The Saints were in the entire game with a good shot at the win, but lessons were learned that execution at both ends of the floor, and doing the little things on every possession for 32 minutes, are the keys to seal the deal and earn a victory.
A chance to see if they can put it all together comes on Friday afternoon as they head to UCC for 'Winterfest', and a rematch of the CAIS semi-final!
Story by: Sean Ludwig, Coach