Jan. 5, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Villanova Wildcats dropped a 74-57 decision to the USF Bulls (9-7 overall, 2-1 BIG EAST) in their conference home opener at the Pavilion on Thursday night. The `Cats fell to 7-8 overall, 0-3 in the BIG EAST before the 120th consecutive regular season sellout in the Pavilion.
"(It) was not a great performance by us," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "You have to give South Florida credit - they came in here, they were physical and just pounded us on the glass. They made big shots and we were 4-of-20 from three. We didn't make shots."
Hilliard scored five early points to help the `Cats gain an early 9-2 advantage with 16:33 to play in the period. However, the Bulls used their length on the defensive end to slow the Villanova attack and began to create offense, pulling to within 17-14 when Jawanza Poland completed a conventional 3-point play off a back-door cut with 7:31 to play in the first half.
A 3-point field goal from Blake Nash gave USF its first lead of the game 20-19 with just under five minutes to play before the break. The Bulls followed that with a rebound score by Victor Rudd and free throw to pull ahead to a 23-19 lead with 4:23 left in the first half.
A Johnson basket on a strong drive got the Wildcats back to within 23-21 with just over three minutes left in the period. The half ended with USF holding a 27-25 edge. Yarou, who scored seven points before exiting the game with his second foul midway through the period, led Villanova in scoring.
USF did much of its damage in the half on the backboards, where they owned an 18-13 advantage. The Bulls scored eight second chance points while the Wildcats were held scoreless in the category over the first 20 minutes.
A 13-4 spurt at the start of the second half helped USF construct a 40-29 lead after a Shaun Noriega basket and free throw with 15:55 left to play.
JayVaughn Pinkston scored seven consecutive points in a stretch midway through the period to pull the Wildcats to within 48-45 with 8:33 left in the period and draw the Pavilion crowd to its feet. But Poland helped his team maintain the lead with a basket that pushed the USF advantage to 52-47. A Poland triple pushed the USF lead back to ten, 57-47 with 5:43 on the clock.
"In that stretch Jawanza made a couple of big baskets that got the momentum going back in our favor," stated USF head coach Stan Heath.
The Wildcats couldn't get their shots to fall as they battled to close the gap. USF, meanwhile, patiently rebuilt its lead, outscoring VU 26-12 over the final 9:03.
"We didn't do anything to get ourselves any easy baskets," said Wright. "We couldn't create any baskets in transition, we didn't get any offensive rebounds and we just weren't good in transition."
Villanova dropped its first home game in 2011-12 and shot only .377 on the night from the field and 4-of-20 from outside the 3-point arc (.200).
"What happens is when you can't score, it just puts so much pressure on your defense," stated Wright. "You're missing shots and then you've got to scramble, trap people and it all kind of builds. It's not just defense. What happens is, you make a couple of shots, that puts a little pressure on the other team."
"Aside from Maalik, we don't really have a proven scorer, someone who has scored in the Big East. That kind of guy can break someone's run. We're hoping Mouph can develop into a guy like that, Ty can, JayVaughn can. But right now Maalik is the only guy and there is a lot of pressure on him to score when someone is on a run."
"We're a struggling team right now but we're going to battle through this. We're going to get better."
Villanova hosts DePaul, an 84-81 winner over Pittsburgh Thursday night, at the Pavilion on Sunday (Noon/My 17/ESPN 950 Radio).
NOTES: Wayns and Dominic Cheek did not start the game as a result of what Wright described as a "minor issue in practice" on Tuesday ... The loss was only the second inside the Pavilion for Villanova in its last 53 games dating to 2007. The other came last February to Pittsburgh by the count of 57-54.