Jan. 9, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. - The Villanova Wildcats rode the scoring of their forwards to a 61-53 victory over the University of South Florida here tonight. VU improved to 11-4 overall, 2-0 in the BIG EAST while the Bulls drop to 9-5 overall, 0-2 in the conference.
"Our forwards really did a good job," stated VU head coach Jay Wright. "They set a tone and got us off to a good start. It's very tough to come from behind a team like this as we saw last season."
The Wildcats broke an early 6-6 deadlock with a 7-0 run that was keyed by rebounding. Villanova collected nine of the contest's first 14 caroms and had more than twice as many field goal attempts in the first eight minutes as did the Bulls. However, the clean 3-point looks created by sophomore guard Anthony Collins kept USF within 13-9 with 11:55 to play in the first period.
The solid interior work helped Villanova push the lead to 21-12 with seven minutes remaining in the period. Freshman Daniel Ochefu, making the first start of his college career, contributed eight early points while senior Mouphtaou Yarou and sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston added four points each.
A triple from junior James Bell gave VU a 24-12 lead with just over four minutes on the first half clock.
Villanova took a 34-20 lead with it into the locker room at halftime. It owed that advantage to its work on the glass - a 26-15 edge - and the scoring of its forwards - Ochfu, Yarou and Pinkston combined for 25 points and 16 rebounds. The Wildcats also limited the Bulls to 7-of-23 from the field in the first 20 minutes (.304). USF did convert 4-of-11 (.364) from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Wildcats were able to maintain the 14-point lead through the first five minutes of the second half as Yarou continued to assert himself. The senior scored four more points and added a rebound to give him a double-double, his first of 2012-13 and 14th in his four seasons on the Main Line.
USF's defense helped keep the Wildcats' scoring in check early in the period but Villanova responded with gritty defensive work of its own. USF shaved two points off the `Cats halftime advantage and trailed 42-30 with 11:22 left on the second half clock.
The lead grew to 48-32 before the Bulls' Collins ignited his team with ball distribution and scoring. A Victor Rudd triple shaved the gap to 49-41 with 6:42 to go in the period.
But Villanova went back to its forwards for points and got baskets from Yarou and Pinkston. The Wildcats kept the Bulls at a comfortable distance and earned their second conference triumph of the young campaign.
"This was as good a win as we have had this season," stated Wright.
Up next for the Wildcats is a Saturday afternoon date at Syracuse (Noon/6ABC and 610 WIP Radio).