Villanova extends streak with win over USF

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Villanova's Daniel Ochefu goes up for a rebound against NJIT (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu contests a shot against NJIT (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Andrew Koob(@AndrewKoob)

For most of the 2012-2013 season, Villanova freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono has been the most revered and, in turn, the most criticized newcomer to the Wildcats’ squad.

On Wednesday night, the other highly-regarded freshman, forward Daniel Ochefu, stepped up in a big way in Villanova’s (11-4, 2-0 Big East) 61-53 win over South Florida (9-5, 0-2 Big East), their seventh in a row.

The 6-foot-11, 245-pound forward made a statement for the Wildcats in his first career start, scoring 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting (60 percent) and grabbing eight rebounds, with five coming off the offensive glass. On the season, Ochefu is averaging 3.4 points and shooting 48.6 percent while grabbing 4.4 rebounds per game.

Wildcat forward Mouphtaou Yarou recorded his first double-double of the season, scoring a game-high 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Last year, the 6-foot-10, 225-pound senior had 10 double-doubles, five of them coming before conference play even began. Sixth man JayVaughn Pinkston added 15 points and four rebounds in what was an impressive showing for the Villanova frontcourt.

Arcidiacono, following his career-high 32 points against St. John’s, let his teammates do the damage against USF. The freshman from Neshaminy High School didn’t score until the 10:30 mark of the second half, hitting a three-pointer that gave the Wildcats a 14-point lead. He ended the game with five points, shooting 2-of-5 (40 percent), and dished out three assists.

Villanova closed out the first half on a 19-8 run with Yarou contributing five points, including three from the free-throw line, to lead the charge. The Wildcats only had a three-point lead before the run, but ended up distancing themselves from the host Bulls with a 34-20 lead at the half.

USF cut the lead to eight with seven minutes in the second half with a 9-1 run, but Yarou and Ochefu added a bucket each to bring the lead back to double-digits. Villanova wouldn’t let the lead drop to single-digits until USF’s Javontae Hawkins hit a three-quarter court shot to end the game.

Defense was a big factor in the Wildcats’ win, holding the Bulls’ three double-digit scorers to below their season average. Bulls leading scorer Victor Rudd, who averaged 11.5 points per game coming into Wednesday’s game, was held scoreless in the opening half, but ended up with 12 points off of 3-of-11 shooting (27.3 percent) with five of those points coming from the charity stripe. Forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, averaging 11.4 points, added 11 points, while guard Jawanza Poland, scoring 11.2 points per game, contributed just four points.

Overall, Villanova held the Bulls to 17-of-49 shooting overall (34.7 percent) and 5-of-19 shooting from beyond the arc (26.3 percent). On the season, USF is shooting 42 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three-point range, ranked 221st and 96th in the country, respectively.

The Wildcats have opened up Big East play with two wins, but have a tough task ahead when they visit the Carrier Dome to take on the No. 7 Syracuse Orange (15-1, 3-0 Big East) on Saturday, January 12th. Villanova and Syracuse tip off at noon.

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