City Of Brotherly Love Is Unkind To Bearcats

Though having a down year from the perspective of their lofty standards, Harry Perretta's now 14-8 (5-6) Villanova Wildcat team returned to historic form Saturday against a young Cincinnati team, that looked more like lost Bearkittens in their 64-40 loss in Philadelphia.

Cincinnati (14-8, 4-7) has now lost three in a row since getting back to .500 in the Big East on the shoulders of a three-game winning streak (four out of five). This is the second three-game skid for the Bearcats this season. While any losing streak is bad, UC could take solace in the fact they had Big East Big Shots Rutgers and UConn sandwiching their loss to conference bottom-dweller Providence. This most recent streak has seen the Red and Black fall to the middle-of-the-pack teams they will have to beat in order to present an appealing case to both the NCAA and WNIT committees come Selection Sunday.

Like Pete Carrill's Princeton Offense, Dean Smith's "Four Corners", Jim Boeheim and John Chaney's patented attacking zones, Perretta brings a very distinct playing style to the women's game. Today, as a matter of fact, Cincinnati saw first hand how distinct their style is, as they had it dictated to them by the recent Big East powerhouse.

Villanova is a team that likes to slow down the game, often times taking advantage of the lack of a 10-second violation in the women's game. They are very deliberate in their offensive sets, and look to take time off the clock and wait for a good shot. That is exactly what ‘Nova was able to do all game long. Perretta's methodical offense requires two things: ball movement and efficiency/mistake-free play, both of which he received from his squad today. The Wildcats had 18 assists on their 25 made field goals, while only turning the ball over eight times.

Villanova's ability to "play clean" was a keynote factor for both teams coming into the contest. While the Wildcats rely heavily on the ability to pass around the perimeter, wear away at the clock, and find quality looks late in the possession, it was the other ‘Cat squad that looked to nip this in the bud and force their opponents into some indiscretions.

UC, like their male counterpart, is a team that looks to take advantage of their on-ball pressure and ability to force turnovers and find offensive success off those miscues. Needless to say, the thieving backcourt of Shelly Bellman and Treasure Humphries were rarely successful at picking off errant potential-helpers. The Bearcats only managed four steals on the contest, which helped lead to only three points-off-turnovers.

While direct points off turnovers were infrequent for Cincinnati's version of the ‘Cats, indirect points off Philadelphia's feline equivalent were just as irregular. The Bearcats are a team that has had great success from their ability to outlet the ball off defensive rebounds and initiate the fast-break offense. However, in this game, there was little of that to be found in the unfriendly confines in the City of Brotherly Love. While limited in there ability to get on the run when they were able to rip the ball off the defensive glass, UC had problems just getting the ball in the first place. Villanova, who is last in the league in rebounding margin, out rebounded the young Bearcats 32-to-30, with the difference on the glass coming from the offensive totals (9-to-7 in favor of the Wildcats – and you could not give a sharp-shooting ‘Nova squad more than one chance at finding success.

For the most part UC was sound defensively. The Bearcats aggressive play helped limit a potent Wildcat frontcourt to just 14 points. That by itself is an impressive total, but the number is exacerbated when you measure in that ‘Nova leading scorer Liad Suez-Karni (14.6) to just six points in 23 foul-laden minutes of work.

However, the great effort put forth to shutdown the inside game of VU was undermined by the step-up performance of pass-first backcourt mates Besty McManus and Jenna Viani. Vianai (8.9 ppg) and McManus (5.7 ppg), ‘Nova's fourth and fifth leading scorers and first (3.9) and second (3.6) assists distributors, combined for more than half of the team offensive output for the game with 34 points. Viania scored 24 points while dishing out four assists, while McManus pitched in double-figures with 10 points of her own.

The duo also helped makeup for a nearly non-existent free-throw effort (1-of-2 for the game) by connecting on eight shots from behind the arc, six of which came from Vianai. While VU only shot 44-percent from the floor, the Wildcats managed to connect 13 three-point field goals (13-of-36) as a team.

While Villanova so much success come for the unexpected showing of their guards, Cincinnati also saw a less than expected/needed performance from their trio of guards. They three-headed perimeter monster of Bellman, Humphries and Micah Harvey combined for just 9 points on the contest – which, sadly, is nearly a quarter of the total Bearcat offensive output. Generally as quick, ferocious and hungry as any big cat found in the wild, the Wildcat defense did a great job of making the UC backcourt look a lot more like helpless, declawed prey.

Aiding and abetting Cincinnati's sluggish scoring efforts was their sloppy ball handling, as it hindered their ability to initiative successive offensive sets and get into a flow on offense. To drive this point home a little more clearly, UC had 16 turnovers for the contest while only connecting on 18 shots from the floor. Making matters worse was the fact that UC saw seven of their turnovers come from their starting guards, including four from Humphries, the teams usually sure-handed point guard.

Cincinnati will look to avoid their longest losing skid of the season when the return to action Wednesday night against West Virginia. Hopefully, a little home cooking will be just what the Doctor (James Naismith) ordered, as the Bearcats return to Fifth Third Arena at 7 pm for the first of a two-game homestand.

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