By Drew Dalton (@dutch4885)
Coming off their first loss of the season in a miserable shooting performance this past Monday versus 7th-ranked Oklahoma, Villanova bounced back in a big way Sunday night at the Pavilion. In their second Big 5 contest of the season, the Wildcats dominated the visiting La Salle Explorers from the opening tip to the final buzzer, winning by a score of 76-47. The victory signified continued dominance for the Wildcats in the Philadelphia college hoops scene, as it was their 12th straight in the Big 5 city series dating back to the 2012-13 season.
At the Pearl Harbor Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii earlier in the week, Villanova misfired on a startling 28 of 32 3-point attempts against Oklahoma. Furthermore, the Cats’ perimeter defense allowed the Sooners to drain a far more successful 14-of-26 triples en-route to their convincing 78-55 victory over Villanova. Despite the poor shooting numbers, Villanova head coach Jay Wright felt as though it was the little things his team failed to execute that led to their first loss of the season.
“I know everybody sees 4 for 32 [on three-pointers], but believe it or not, that was the least of it,” the Villanova coach said per Joe Juliano of Philly.com. “It was really all the other little things that we didn’t do to make up for shooting 4 for 32…I think our guys learned a lesson from that, and I thought we did a much better job with attention to detail in our scouting report, boxing out on rebounds, making the extra pass. A lot of little things we did a better job of tonight.”
The 9th-ranked Wildcats (8-1) took care of business against the Explorers (4-4), putting together a near-perfect game on their way to the victory. They shot a much more characteristic 46% (13-28) from beyond the arc, and 55% on all field goals. The Wildcats displayed beautiful ball movement throughout the contest as they assisted on 24 of their 28 made baskets, while also out-rebounding the Explorers by 11. La Salle junior guard Jordan Price (the nation’s 3rd-leading scorer at 25.9 ppg entering play), was held to just 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting by a focused Villanova defense.
The calculated Villanova attack began right from the opening tip, as Villanova methodically built a 15-point lead by halftime. Junior Josh Hart scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the first half, knocking down back-to-back threes over a 45-second span late in the half to open up a double-digit lead for the Wildcats. Hart would wind up shooting 3 of 5 from deep, as part of a 7-13 shooting effort on the evening.
While Villanova played well before intermission, the Wildcats stepped up their game even further on both ends of the floor after the break, going on a 15-4 run to start the second half and stretch the lead to 53-27. With the game under control, the Wildcats still gave the sold-out Pavilion plenty to get excited about as senior center Daniel Ochefu provided multiple highlight reel dunks, including a rim-rocking alley-oop slam off a beautiful pass from freshman guard Jalen Brunson.
Ochefu finished with 6 points, a game-high 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Senior guard and co-captain Ryan Arcidiacono played one of his best games of the season, scoring 14 points without missing a shot and dishing out 7 assists against just 2 turnovers. As always, the Wildcats are at their best when they received balanced contributions from up and down the roster.
The Wildcats get another shot at earning a valuable non-conference victory against a ranked opponent this Saturday at noon as they travel south to take on the 10th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers.