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Fast Start Helps Lift No. 11 Wildcats Past Providence 91-61
Tony Chennault

Jan. 5, 2014

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VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova scored the first nine points of the evening and never looked back as it rolled to a 91-61 victory over Providence (10-4 overall, 0-2 BIG EAST) in the conference home opener at the Pavilion. The No. 11/14 Wildcats are now 13-1 overall and 2-0 in the BIG EAST.

"I think our start, kind of jumping on Providence like we did, had a big impact because they have lost a number of guys," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "When you get a lead like that, it's tough for them to play from behind.

"It all kind of fell into place for us. I can guarantee you it won't be like that when we go back to Providence."

Junior JayVaughn Pinkston led the Wildcats with 19 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Dylan Ennis supplied 17 points off the bench, part of a reserve effort that helped the Wildcats' bench outscore their Friar counterparts 38-4. Darrun Hilliard contributed 15 points, three assists and a pair of steals.

Bryce Cotton scored 25 points to lead all scorers while also adding six assists and six rebounds. LaDontae Henton added 17 points for Providence, which connected on just .353 of its field goal attempts on the night.

Villanova won the opening tip and it led to a dunk from Pinkston. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native scored again on the next possession and that was followed by five straight points from Hilliard to help the Wildcats built a 9-0 advantage, forcing a Providence timeout. The Wildcats stretched the edge to 15-3 through the game's first 4:07 thanks in no small part to connecting on six of their first seven field goal attempts, including 3-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Villanova used its ¾ court trap to advantage in the period, forcing 12 Friar turnovers that led to 14 first half points.

"When it worked early and got a big lead, it kind of played into our hands," stated Wright. "They're bigger and they want to get into the half-court. But when they're down, they've got to play faster. That start made a big difference in that game."

The Wildcats also got a strong boost from their bench, which proved especially helpful after senior captain James Bell picked up a pair of fouls in the game's first minute and did not return until the second half. The reserves outscored their Providence counterparts 20-0 in the first period.

"We were playing OK and I thought Tony Chennault really gave us a great lift," stated Wright. "I thought he took us to another level."

The hot shooting helped Villanova build a 50-26 lead at halftime. The Wildcats converted 19-of-33 field goal attempts (.576) and helped VU limit the Friars to 7-of-22 (.318) shooting from the floor in the first half.

The second half margin never dipped below 20 points as the Wildcats kept up the pace. Villanova matched its perimeter accuracy from the first period, sinking 7-of-13 from beyond the arc.

"We did play well tonight," stated Wright. "We had some really good practices coming back from Butler. We felt like in the Butler game we played with a lot of heart but we felt there were a lot of things we didn't do well. It's easier to coach guys after a close win when you know you could have lost the game.

"I really thought our guys put in two hard days of practice. We went a little bit easier (Saturday). I thought we really improved defensively the last three days."

"Obviously it's good when then shots are falling," noted Hilliard, "but that's not really what we pride ourselves on. It's all about defense and rebounding for us."

This game began a busy week for the Wildcats. Villanova visits Seton Hall on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network) and then is at Madison Square Garden to battle St. John's at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11 (Fox Sports 1).

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