Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Villanova used some tough second-half defense to pull away from Delaware, winning 75-65 on Sunday in front of a friendly crowd at their on-campus Pavilion.
JayVaughn Pinkston tied a season high with 19 points off the bench to lead four Wildcats in double figures; he was joined by starters James Bell (14 points) and Darrun Hilliard (10 points) as well as freshman forward Daniel Ochefu, who set a career high with 11 points while also adding seven rebounds.
“A good win for us, against I think a very talented Delaware team that Monté (Ross) had very well prepared,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said, referencing his counterpart on the opposing bench.
Wright was wary of a potential letdown game against the team picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association, especially after an emotional 65-61 win over Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday on top of the school’s final examination week.
“Learning experiences,” Wright said. “coming off the St. Joe’s game, being in finals–these guys had finals yesterday, they have finals tomorrow. Our practice schedule’s way off…just a lot of maturity, I was very pleased with it.”
The Blue Hens stayed in this one early thanks to making more than half of their first-half shots, hitting 12-of-23 (52.2 percent) from the floor to the Wildcats’ 13-of-33 (39.4 percent) as they trailed by just four at halftime. The second half was a completely different story, as Delaware shot just 32.0 percent (8-of-25) while Villanova heated up to make 15-of-29 (51.2 percent) over the final 20 minutes.
“I was more concerned at halftime with our energy,” Wright said. “I didn’t think we started the game with great energy…I thought they came into the game a little bit more energized and I’m glad I can talk about this afterwards, but whether it’s finals or whatever, that shouldn’t affect you, a good team.”
Villanova (7-4) extended their lead after the break, going up 54-40 on Darrun Hilliard’s steal-and-layup with 12:30 remaining. Delaware (3-8) was never able to make a late push against a tougher, more physical home squad; Ochefu put the exclamation point on things with a 3-point play on a put-back dunk that gave Villanova a 65-48 lead with under five minutes to play.
“I think just practicing against Mouph, Jay and Mo every day in practice, they’re experienced guys and they’re gonna push me every day,” Ochefu said about his progress. “If I can keep up with them, I can keep up with anybody in the country.”
Delaware freshman Terrell Rodgers got his fifth career start in place of Jarvis Threatt, who is battling an ankle injury he suffered before the Blue Hens’ last game. Threatt made his appearance a little more than four minutes into the game and finished with 15 points in 31 minutes.
Hagins checked himself out of the game less than two minutes into the second half and headed into the locker room after having his left shoulder examined on the sideline; he would return fewer than two minutes later. The nation’s third-leading rebounder (12.5 rpg) had eight boards and 12 points against a Villanova frontcourt consisting of Pinkston as well as 6-11 Mouphtaou Yarou and 6-10 Maurice Sutton.
“I was very happy with our forwards,” Wright said. “I thought our forwards defensively played great, I thought they looked for each other great–especially Daniel and JayVaughn, I thought they did a great job of finding each other in our offense.”
“Our forwards can block shots,” he added about a frontcourt that had nine rejections, including a career-high six by Sutton. “But you have to learn how to do it within our defensive concepts, because they also have to get far out on the perimeter to help defend ball screens. These guys are starting to get out on the perimeter and defend ball screens and get back inside and block shots.”
Villanova freshman Ryan Arcidiacono continued his early-season shooting slump, going 2-of-9 from the floor; the point guard was known for his shooting ability coming out of Neshaminy High School but came into the game making 31.0 percent overall and just 29.0 percent (18-of-62) from three.
Delaware was led by 19 points from Devon Saddler, who scored one below his average but moved into 15th all-time on the school’s scoring list (1,239), surprising Anthony Wright (1,232) and Peca Arsic (1,237); he’s now behind Ketutis Marciuloinis (1,258) and Dave Sysko (1,269). Saddler shot 5-of-12 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line; Kyle Anderson (10 points) joined Saddler, Threatt and Hagins in double figures.
The Blue Hens still looking for their first-ever win against a Big East team; they’re 0-11 all-time against a league that won’t exist for much longer in its current form.
Villanova gets six days off before they travel up to Monmouth on Saturday; Delaware is in action on Friday night when they host Penn.