March 13, 2013
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Sturdy defense and some timely offense from senior Mouphtaou Yarou and freshman Ryan Arcidiacono helped lead Villanova past St. John's 66-53 in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship here tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats (20-12 overall, 10-8 BIG EAST) advance to meet No. 2 seed Louisville at 7 p.m. Thursday night.
Yarou connected on 9-of-10 from the field and finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes. Arcidiacono added 15 points, six rebounds and five assist to the cause for the Wildcats.
St. John's (16-15 overall, 8-10 BIG EAST) was paced by Phil Greene Jr.'s 16 points.
"That was a difficult game and you have to give St. John's a lot of credit," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "They lost their leading scorer (D'Angelo Harrison) and you're not just going to go find one. I thought Steve (Lavin) did a great job of finding another way."
"We were struggling in the first half. I felt (in) the second half we got more aggressive against their pressure and started to make some plays and got to the foul line."
The Wildcats forged an early 9-6 lead on the strength of jumpers from sophomore Darrun Hilliard and Arcidiacono - the latter a 3-point goal. Another triple, this one from junior James Bell made it a 12-6 margin with just over 14 minutes remaining.
Villanova's defense held the Red Storm without a field goal for the better part of six minutes midway through the half and that allowed the `Cats to craft an 18-8 edge with 9:57 to play. However, St. John's responded with a 7-2 run of its own keyed by BIG EAST Rookie of the Year JaKarr Sampson to close to within 20-13 at the 7:42 mark of the period.
A driving basket by Phil Greene Jr. with just over six minutes left closed the gap to 20-15.
As much as VU was in charge of the first 10 minutes, St. John's controlled the second ten minutes, using defensive pressure to force 10 Wildcat turnovers in the period. The Red Storm owned a 14-10 advantage on points off of turnovers and it helped St. John's come all the way back to know matters at 24 when buzzer sounded for halftime.
Mouphtaou Yarou accounted for exactly one-half of VU's points in the first 20 minutes, contributing 12 points, four rebounds and three steals. Villanova held a 19-12 advantage on the glass.
The Red Storm continued their surge early in the second half, building a 29-26 lead with 18:17 to play after a basket by Phil Greene Jr.
Gradually, though, Villanova's defensive pressure took its toll. The Wildcats helped hold BIG EAST Rookie of the Year JaKarr Sampson in check - he would finish with 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting from the floor - and generated steady offense in the second half. JayVaughn Pinkston had a hand in that, as the Brooklyn, N.Y., native would go on to complete the night with 12 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes of action.
An Arcidiacono triple helped VU regain the lead midway through the period and the Wildcats never trailed again.
"We count on him for that, and he knows that," said Wright. "I think there was a point in the game where he was looking, and we needed a big shot. We needed someone to make a play. We could sense he was searching it, and that was. That was big. It kind of gave us a little separation."
The Wildcats would pull away down the stretch to post a 66-53 triumph.
Yarou's scoring early was especially important as the Wildcats went without a trip to the free throw line (they would shoot 23 after the break, draining 19).
"He was good he was good tonight, and it's not a surprise to us," noted Wright of the 6-10 native of Benin. "We know what a good shooter he is. Most people take it away from us, but they really took our guards away from us tonight, and they kind of made a decision we're going to make him beat us, which is not a bad game plan. He was big time."
Villanova will face Louisville for the second time in 2012-13. The Wildcats upended the then No. 5 Cardinals 73-64 on Jan. 22 at the Wells Fargo Center.