Garrett Miley (@GWMiley)
Villanova a balanced effort offensively as the Wildcats improved to 2-0 with a 90-59 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Wednesday night.
With starting forward Daniel Ochefu picking up two early fouls less than three minutes into the game, Villanova (2-0) was forced to use freshmen Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins early and often against Mount St. Mary’s (0-2).
Hart was stellar against the Mountaineers, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.
“He’s just getting better everyday,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Hart. “He had a little setback for a few weeks with a concussion and he was out for about two and a half weeks. When he came back it was like starting over again but he’s getting better everyday and I think that’s what we’re seeing here. I thought he really handled the ball well against pressure and again, like we talked about, we needed a guy who could beat their pressure and could still finish at the rim because they force you to do that…defensively and on the glass he did a great job. He was a great rebounder in high school so it doesn’t surprise me but I’m happy to see him do it in college.”
Hart’s first basket came 3:32 into the first half when he sunk a three to tie the game at 5. By halftime, he was a perfect 3-3 from the field with seven points. Both Hart and Jenkins provided a spark with their relentless hustle on both ends of the floor. Their efforts were contagious with veteran teammate Ryan Arcidiacono and others following suit at the end of the first half.
Hart continued his high level of play in the second half and finished 7-8 from the field in the game. Hart’s defensive effort was disruptive to the Mount St. Mary’s offensive attack all night long, and he credits his high level of play to the support of his teammates.
“I’m definitely a little bit more comfortable,” Hart said. “My teammates are always picking me up. Whenever I have a turnover or an offensive foul, they’re always picking me up. With this group of guys, I’m getting a lot more comfortable.”
Things were close between the Wildcats and Mountaineers for the first five minutes of action, and the two teams were knotted up at seven apiece. Led by juniors Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova was able to distance themselves from Mount St. Mary’s.
Hilliard and Pinkston were nothing short of impressive in the victory. Both players put together their second impressive performance in as many games for the Wildcats.
From the opening tip, Hilliard was aggressive on the offensive end and finished with an impressive 18 points on 8-10 shooting and was the leading scorer for Jay Wright’s team at the half with 14.
Pinkston finished with a game high 21 points on 9-15 shooting, including a strong second half showing where he scored 13 points to cement the victory for Villanova. Playing against the Mount St. Mary’s press and zone, the ability of Pinkston and his teammates to score in the paint was key in the Wildcats offense on Wednesday night.
“It’s kind of their style of play,” Wright said. “They really try to take away threes. They trap you and press you and try to take away threes. You’re not going to beat their pressure to kick up for threes so you’ve gotta take it to the basket. We did a good job taking it to the basket and then when we didn’t, we put the ball in the post.”
For Mount St. Mary’s, guard Julian Norfleet finished with a team high 15 points shooting just 5-14 from the field. As a team, the Mountaineers shot just 17-57 as they couldn’t crack the relentless Villanova defensive effort.
“I think Mount St. Mary’s is a much better team than that score indicates,” Wright said. “We’ve watched film of them. They’re a good team, they’re going to be good we just played well. I was very pleased with how we played, we still have work to do but I think we defended the three pretty well for us…we got a lot better from last game.”
The Wildcats are back on the court on Sunday when they take on Towson at home. Tip-off between Villanova and Towson is at 5 PM and the game will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1.