A case in point came Saturday against West Virginia. The Mountaineers defended the 6-foot-5 Stokes with 6-7 John Flowers and 6-8 Kevin Jones. Stokes got just five shots - all but one from three-point range - and made two, for six points.
Over his last nine games, Stokes is shooting less than 32 percent, both overall and from three-point territory, and has seen his average drop from 17.3 points to 14.8. His three-point percentage is still a robust 41.3 percent, however, and he averages almost three baskets from deep per game.
"If our guys drive with Stokes on the same side of the court, no one is leaving Stokes," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, who doesn't think Stokes' toe injury has affected his shooting. "It's frustrating. You know he's a good shooter. People look at it like, keep him from getting threes."
Wright said he's starting to see defenses also deny senior guard Corey Fisher, giving Maalik Wayns more freedom to drive with the basketball and take the shot himself. That could help Stokes in the long run.
"I think as Fish and Maalik get it going, people are going to start leaving him a little bit more, and I think it's going to help him," Wright said.
Villanova gained three spots in the Associated Press weekly rankings, as the Wildcats were ranked No. 9. They were a season-low 12th last week after losing three out of four games.
Fisher a finalist
Senior guard Corey Fisher was named Monday as one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation's outstanding point guard.
The 6-foot-1 Fisher is averaging nearly 16 points and more than five assists for the Wildcats. In his last 11 games, he is shooting 47.3 percent from the field overall and 46.7 percent from three-point range.
Beginning Tuesday, the award's website - www.cousyaward.com - will sponsor fan voting over the next month. The winner of the fan balloting will receive one vote toward the final vote by the awards committee. The list of 10 will be reduced to five by March 10, and the winner will be announced on April 4.
Among the other finalists are Connecticut's Kemba Walker (Fisher's longtime friend from the Bronx), Nolan Smith of Duke, and Jimmer Fredette of BYU.
Cheek's learning process
Some eyebrows were raised when 6-6 sophomore guard Dominic Cheek received only three minutes of playing time last Wednesday against Marquette, well below his average of 20.
Calling Cheek "a wonderful kid," Wright said he is still learning how to guard smaller and quicker perimeter players after playing mostly the power forward position at nationally renowned St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J.
"We're trying to get him to learn how to guard on the perimeter, and how important it is for a guard to rebound and defend," Wright said. "He's trying, he really is. But we had matchups with smaller guards against Marquette. He went in and, bam, the first guy went blowing by him.
"But against West Virginia, they played some bigger guards, and he was great in that game. I really think he's getting it. When he gets it defensively, he's going to be incredible because offensively, he's great."
Countdown to "GameDay"
The entire Villanova campus community is awaiting Saturday night's game against No. 4 Pittsburgh that will culminate the day's activities with the ESPN's College GameDay crew on campus.
But the Wildcats still have work ahead of them Wednesday night at Rutgers, so Fisher is doing what he has to do.
"I had to turn my phone off," he said. "Everybody's pumped up. Family and friends are coming to the game. It's going to be crazy. But for now, I need to be focused. We have to try to continue what we're doing and get better every day. So I know I've got to turn my cell phone off."
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org