Lindsey Beakes (@LBeakesy)
For a team still looking to get its footing in the 2012-13 season, three consecutive wins against Penn, St. Joseph’s and now Delaware give the Villanova team a new push for the start of the approaching calendar year. The 75-65 win the Wildcats had against the Blue Hens at home was largely due to the efforts of team, not just the players who’ve been getting the most publicity.
“I thought our forwards played great and I thought they looked for each other great, especially Daniel (Ochefu) and JayVaughn (Pinkston),” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I thought they did a great job of finding each other in our offense.”
One of the forwards who showed up big for the Wildcats was redshirt senior Maurice Sutton, whose start against Delaware was his sixth in a row.
“Mo is getting a lot of playing time now; I thought Mo started the game off great, with a lot of energy and I just think we’ve been so guard-oriented people naturally come in and try to take our guards away,” Jay Wright said. “I just think it’s really exciting that our forwards are finding each other and playing well off of each other.”
Sutton’s energy helped him earn a career high of six blocked shots, breaking the high he just set in Villanova’s most recent game against Temple.
“I thought Mo Sutton made some great defensive plays that kept us alive early,” said Jay Wright.
Sutton lead the Villanova team in overall rebounds with seven of the team’s total of 43. This trend in strong defensive playing from the Wildcat forwards is something Jay Wright attributes to the forwards’ abilities to get out to the perimeter and defend ball screens while then getting back inside to block. Wright said it is about playing within the Villanova defensive concepts and “Mo Sutton, being a senior, is very good at it.”
These defensive efforts by the redshirt senior, especially against Delaware big man Jamelle Hagins, helped to shut down Blue Hen scoring. Sutton’s starting energy was matched by his teammates, especially off of the bench. Sophomore guard Archraf Yacoubou is still adjusting to the Villanova style, but his energy is unmatched.
“He brings so much energy, he’s a guy that’s still kind of learning our system,” Wright said. “Our system is actually the complete opposite of his system in high school. The more I watch him learn the more I understand how everything that we do is the exact opposite of what he did and he was like a coach’s dream in high school so he did everything the way they wanted him to and it was a good way for him in high school. That’s why we started him at the beginning of the second half because he just brings so much energy,
When he started the second half, Yacoubou lead the Wildcats in rebounds, with four of the team’s total 20. The sophomore guard came in averaging 6.5 rebounds in his last two games after his 16 minutes of play in the Holy War on Tuesday left him with a total of seven. In the game before that, team’s win against Penn, Yacoubou had six rebounds. At the end of the battle with the Blue Hens, the sophomore had racked up seven rebounds total, tying his career high.
“He’s so tough defensively, he goes to the offensive glass, he just makes so many things happen out there,” Jay Wright said. “I’m really proud of his progress, he’s going to keep getting better as he gets comfortable in our system.”
Another source of life for the Wildcats was freshman forward Daniel Ochefu who also matched Sutton with seven of the team’s total 43 rebounds.
“Practicing against Mouph (Yarou), Jay and Mo everyday at practice, you know they’re experienced guys and they’re going push me everyday so if I can keep up with them like that I can keep up with anyone in the country,” Ochefu said. “We just do a good job of practicing really hard everyday.”
The freshman forward also helped to lead the team offensively, finishing with a career high 11 points, just behind Pinkston’s 19 and James Bell’s 14.
“There’s’ a lot of times we started the offense today through JayVaughn or Daniel at the top of the key, those guys are getting good at that,” said Jay Wright. “I think our 3-point shooting shows that, that they’ve got to help a little bit more on our forwards and then they’re getting some open looks.”
For a team that as Wright says needs to “play games together”, the Wildcats are still seeing what works best for them on the court. For a team that is known for being guard centered, utilizing forwards and different players off of the bench has proved to be effective both defensively and offensively for Villanova. It was especially evident against Delaware that the energy Wright can pull from all over the bench will help give this new team necessary depth.
“When I say to you guys this team has to learn how to play together, that’s part of it. We have young guards, people are going to go after our young guards so if they’re going to go after them, the forwards are going to have to make plays,” Wright said.