Fisher is hitting tough shots for Villanova

Posted: February 21, 2011


Fish factors

Coming into the season, I thought Corey Fisher was the best player in the city. He is closing fast on Big 5 Player of the Year.

It is no secret that the Wildcats have issues without the other Corey (Stokes, out with turf toe). The court gets crowded, they are easier to guard, and their perimeter defense isn't as good. So they really needed Fish, even at DePaul . . . especially at DePaul.

The hardest shot in basketball is the tying three in the final seconds when you are the shooter for the favored team. Fisher had one of those shots. He launched it with 8 seconds left in regulation and buried it. Villanova survived in overtime, 77-75. Fisher had a career-best 34 points. He was 11-for-18 overall, 5-for-8 from the arc, 7-for-9 from the foul line. He also had three steals and played the OT with four fouls.

But why so close?

This really looked like a setup. DePaul played the late ESPN game Thursday at Providence and then had to play at 11 a.m. (ET) Saturday in Chicago. But credit DePaul, which has lost a ton of close games, for hanging in the game. The Blue Demons had lost 25 straight league games until winning at PC. They were really close to two straight.

Who was that man?

DePaul's Jeremiah Kelly was averaging 6.6 points and shooting 32-for-98 from the arc. He hit 'Nova for 25 points and was 7-for-13 on threes.

Changing the way they play

It has been subtle, but this is not the Villanova of recent seasons. Yes, the Wildcats are still a perimeter team because its best players are out there. But the 'Cats are much tougher nearer the hoop. They killed DePaul on the glass, 50-36. They are the second-best rebounding team in the Big East, behind Pittsburgh. Mouph Yarou had 12 points and 15 boards against DePaul.

Gut-check weekend

After losing three straight OT heartbreakers, a lesser team without much of a future might have packed it in. Instead, Penn, a team on the come, swept the Brown/Yale road weekend. And the Quakers did it in style, winning 60-58 at Yale when Zack Rosen (eight points, six rebounds, seven assists) dropped in the winner with 2 seconds left.

Penn (11-12, 5-4 Ivy) shot 27-for-53 (50.9 percent) and finished off a sweep of a very solid Yale team.

Tyler Bernardini had 42 points in the two games, a very good sign for the Quakers.

Princeton finally lost. Brown got the Tigers (8-1), so they trail Harvard (9-1). Penn would need a miracle to win the league, but they play Princeton and Harvard again and will have a lot to say about who does win it.

Another wild La Salle game

For sheer entertainment, no team in the city rivals La Salle. But the Explorers can be infuriating. They are bad enough to have lost to Towson on Dec. 29; Towson has not won a game in 2011. They are good enough to have beaten Providence and played really well against Baylor, Oklahoma State, Villanova and Temple.

Well, La Salle's 82-80 loss to George Washington at Gola Arena was the good and bad, all in one game. The Explorers (12-15, 4-8 Atlantic 10) got 27 from senior Jerrell Williams along with 15 points and eight assists from freshman point guard Tyreek Duren, quietly having a terrific season. They forced 21 turnovers from GW (14-12, 7-5). They made an amazing charge at the end. And lost. La Salle trailed, 70-56, with 8 minutes left. They closed to three with 3 seconds left before another nice-looking freshman guard, Sam Mills, was fouled. He made the first free throw and missed the second. The ball went to Aaric Murray. With a chance to tie, he missed.


Best game

I have not seen 10 better athletes on the court than Washington at Arizona, which won, 87-86. This was a great game with one highlight-film play after another. It really took your breath away down the stretch and was a welcome relief from the overcoached slop that too many really good teams have to deliver, apparently to let everybody know how smart the coaches really are.

Arizona's Derrick Williams has to be in the player-of-the-year race. He is averaging an incredible 2.11 points per shot.

'Zona's Sean Miller has to be in the coach-of-the-year conversation. In just his second season, Miller, the former Xavier coach, has the Wildcats (23-4) back in the big time and angling for a high NCAA seed.

Bracket busting

The top half of the Colonial had a very nice weekend. So did the Metro Atlantic and Utah State.

On Friday, VCU won at Wichita State, 68-67, on two free throws in the final second. Drexel beat Kent State, 73-66.

On Saturday, George Mason came from behind to win, 77-71, at Northern Iowa. James Madison beat Miami (of Ohio), 70-69.

Yesterday, Old Dominion overcame an amazing performance by Cleveland State star Norris Cole (35 points) and won, 74-63.

Only Hofstra, among the CAA's top six, got beat. And they got crushed, 82-56, at Wright State.

The MAAC went 9-1 in "BB" games.

Utah State needed to beat a good team on the road. It did so decisively, winning, 75-65, at Saint Mary's. Utah State won the second half, 48-29.

The board man

Morehead State's Kenneth Faried had 17 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Indiana State. He broke Tim Duncan's modern rebound record (since 1973) and now has 1,576 boards. The all-time record is held by La Salle legend Tom Gola with a ridiculous 2,201 rebounds.

Tough being at the top

Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 8 lost over the weekend. No. 1 lost Monday. The common denominator? Each team was on the road.

Going for it

I heard the ESPN guys knocking the Boston College endgame at North Carolina. I thought it was perfect, just like the game plan. UNC won, 106-74, at BC on Feb. 1. So BC coach Steve Donahue slowed down the rematch dramatically. After trailing 41-26 with 10 minutes left, BC got it down to two points in the final seconds.

BC had the ball and dribbled the clock down. Its best player, Reggie Jackson, got a good look at a three. He shot with 4.5 seconds left. If he makes it, BC gets a huge upset, something that would have seemed impossible 19 days before. The shot rimmed out and UNC won, 48-46. Why play for a two there? Even if you make it, you are still likely to lose in OT or at the end of regulation. Why not just go for it? *

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