#7 Villanova Wildcats (11-0) vs. N.J.I.T. Highlanders (5-7)
When: Tuesday, December 23, 2014, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
N.J.I.T.’s Previous Season Record: 13-16
Key Players for N.J.I.T.: #0 Ky Howard (6-3, 185) Jr., G; #11 Winfield Willis (6-0, 180) Jr., G; #5 Damon Lynn (5-11, 165) So., G
Scouting Report: N.J.I.T. turned a lot of heads when they upset then-ranked #17 Michigan Wolverines. It was the first time in the program’s eight year history that they faced a top 25 team. Not only did they face a ranked opponent, but they also beat them in their first try. Since beating the Wolverines, the Highlanders are 2-2. They’re entering Tuesday night’s game with a win over Central Connecticut State. N.J.I.T. is driven by strong sophomore and junior classes. The Highlanders get the job done using a guard-heavy lineup. Damon Lynn may not be the biggest or the strongest, standing at 5’10” and 165 pounds. However, he is extremely athletic and a fine perimeter shooter. Last season, as a freshman, he led the team in scoring. This year, he’s doing more of the same. Lynn averages 17.5 points per game and serves as the offensive catalyst for the Highlanders. He’s pretty shifty and quick when he drives to the basket, but most of his points come from the perimeter. In fact, he prefers to take almost 66% of his shots from three point range. The sophomore guard is adept at shooting from long range, making nearly 40% of his attempts. Lynn does not flinch with a defender’s hand in his face. If the threes are falling for him, opposing teams are in for a tough game. Another guard that is of great importance to the Highlanders is Winfield Willis. Willis is the third highest scorer on the team with 10.2 points per game. After Lynn, he is the secondary threat from long range. While he has not taken half the shots that Lynn has, he is slightly more efficient in taking shots. He’s shooting 43.5% overall this season, but takes the backseat to Lynn when it comes to three point shooting (34.0% versus 39.4%). Willis started receiving starting duties last season, his first year at N.J.I.T. Rounding up the trifecta of guards that play a huge role for the Highlanders, is Ky Howard. Howard is one of the more seasoned players on the team, starting ever since his freshman year. Two years ago, when these two teams last met, Howard finished with three points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. He does a little of everything for the Highlanders. He can score, grab rebounds, and set his teammates up with good shot opportunities. Howard averages 13.2 points per game, with team-highs in rebounding (6.3) and assists (3.8). Unlike Lynn and Willis, Howard prefers the nitty gritty; he loves to slash and drive his way to the basket. Ky’s brother, Ashley Howard, is an assistant coach for the Wildcats. Ashley Howard joined Jay Wright’s staff in June 2013.
N.J.I.T.’s front court isn’t too impressive. Only two players on their whole roster are 6’6″ or taller, Daquan Holiday (6’8″) and Vlad Shustov (6’10”). However, the towering Shustov doesn’t see much playing time. Holiday is in the starting rotation, but is frequently in foul trouble. The lack of depth in the front court is a problem that the Highlanders don’t seem to have a real solution for.
Outlook: N.J.I.T. was once seen as a stocking stuffer game. After seeing what happened to Michigan in their own arena, there seems to be something more to these Highlanders after all. The Wolverines lost because they let N.J.I.T. get their way on the three point line. Damon Lynn is good at shooting from long range. If he can find a rhythm, he will be tough to stop. Their whole offense runs through him, he should be a focal point of the Wildcats’ defense. They should force N.J.I.T. to try to beat them through other means. Fortunately for the Wildcats, their press should cause lots of problems for Lynn and Howard. Together, they each average 3.5 turnovers per game. Ryan Arcidiacono and Dylan Ennis played well defensively, and will pressure their guards immensely. While they were quiet in the previous game against Syracuse, they should look to get back on track tomorrow night. The Highlanders’ strengths clearly lie within the back court. On the other hand, the front court is not too impressive. The lack of size and depth in the area should allow Big East Player of the Week JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu to have a field day inside. Darrun Hilliard is listed as questionable going into tomorrow’s game, if he’s out expect Josh Hart or Kris Jenkins to fill in. With the way that Hart has been playing so far, I’m expecting him to get the nod over Jenkins.