Feb. 7, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - On a night when Seton Hall was making life tough on the perimeter, No. 6 Villanova turned to its forwards to help the Wildcats pull away to a 70-53 victory over Seton Hall (13-10 overall, 4-6 BIG EAST) at the Pavilion on Friday night. The win is the 400th in the career of Wildcats head coach Jay Wright.
VU (21-2 overall, 9-1 BIG EAST) tied a season low with five made 3-point field goals yet prospered on the interior, where junior JayVaughn Pinkston connected on 9-of-11 field goal attempts to finish with 19 points and sophomore Daniel Ochefu added 10 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. He also had a career-high six assists.
"That was a good grind-out win," stated Wright. "Seton Hall is one of the best perimeter defensive teams in our league. I thought they did a really good job, especially in the first half, of taking away our threes. The only answer you have when someone does that is have forwards that can make plays.
"JayVaughn and Daniel were awesome. Not just scoring, but switching off to guard their guards. This was a big-time game for our two forwards."
The 53 points were the fewest Villanova has allowed in a BIG EAST game this season.
The Wildcats opened the game with a nifty feed from Ryan Arcidiacono to a cutting James Bell to grab a 2-0 lead. However, Seton Hall answered with a 7-0 run that gave them a 7-2 advantage that grew to 10-4 with just over 14 minutes to play after a Fuquan Edwin 3-point field goal.
"We were missing a lot of shots in the first half," stated Wright, "and our defense kept us in it. You've got to give Seton Hall credit - they have had some good road wins because they go into your place and take away your threes. Most teams at home make threes."
Villanova battled its way back to even late in the period when Ochefu finished with a dunk. It was part of what became an 11-1 run to close the first period that allowed the Wildcats to grab a 34-26 lead at halftime. Bell scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes and Pinkston contributed nine more.
Edwin paced the Pirates in the first half with eight points. He did not score the rest of the night and finished 3-of-10 from the field.
"That's a credit to Darrun Hilliard and James Bell," stated Wright. "I think it wore Darrun out a little bit - he didn't have the offensive game he normally has. But he did a really good job defensively."
The Wildcats carried the momentum they generated in the final minutes of the first period into the second half. Much of it came off of the teamwork between Pinkston and Ochefu, supplemented by the work of Bell, who would finish with a game-high 20 points.
Villanova moved out to a 42-28 lead with 16:20 to go in the contest on a Pinkston jumper and their margin never dipped below double digits the rest of the night.
The final count was 70-53.
"We're getting better defensively," Wright noted. "We have a ways to go but we have made strides."
And Wright was also pleased with the nifty feeds between his two starting forwards.
"I don't know that we've ever had that kind of interior passing since we've been here," he said. "We've had some scoring but these two can score and they really pass well."
To Ochefu, his knack for passing has long been a part of his repertoire.
"I just like seeing my teammates score and making them happy," he stated. "I could care less about myself really."
Win No. 21 of the campaign also lifted Wright to 400 wins in a career that dates to 1992.
"It's very humbling and I feel very fortunate to coach at Villanova," stated Wright of career victory No. 400, which included 122 at Hofstra from 1992-2001 and 278 at VU since assuming the head coaching position in 2001."Whoever coaches at Villanova, gets a lot of wins."
Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to Chicago, where they will face DePaul at All State Arena at 8:00 p.m. in a BIG EAST clash (Fox Sports 1).
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