March 21, 2014
BUFFALO, N.Y. - On a night when its offense struggled to find a groove, the No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats used a superior defensive effort to record a 73-53 victory over No. 15 seed Milwaukee (21-14 overall) in the final second round game of the day at the First Niagara Center.
The win improves Villanova's record to 29-4 overall - that is the second highest win total in program history. Only the 2008-09 edition (30) posted more triumphs. The Wildcats move on to face former BIG EAST rival Connecticut on Saturday at 9:40 PM on TBS.
"That was a tough-fought game," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "As everyone who was here knows, that was not a 20-point game. Milwaukee is a really tough team that is hard to play against. Their defense was outstanding. I thought our patience and our defense got us through the first half until we could hit some shots, get some stops, and get out in transition.
"I was really proud of our guys. When they didn't make shots, they still defended and played hard."
Villanova, meanwhile, was able to overcome a 27-point first half in time to notch 46 points after halftime. Junior Darrun Hilliard led a balanced attack with 16 points. Junior JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 points and eight rebounds while James Bell added 12 points and seven caroms.
Austin Arians paced the Panthers with 17 points.
The Wildcats held the Panthers without a field goal over the first 4:18. Villanova got a driving basket from Hilliard to open the scoring and four free throws, with two each by Bell and Pinkston, to grab an early 6-0 advantage.
Milwaukee made triples on consecutive possessions, though, and the Wildcats struggled to add points. Over the game's first 12:59 the Wildcats converted only three field goal attempts and were 0-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc. This allowed the Panthers to grab a 13-10 lead.
Hilliard finally gave the Wildcats an offensive boost to spark a 9-0 run to close the period that allowed it to take a 27-23 lead at intermission. Hilliard tallied 13 of the Wildcats 27 first half points.
"I was just trying to be aggressive, to make plays for myself and my teammates," noted Hilliard, who now has 997 career points. "I was just trying to make plays out there, that's all."
Villanova got five quick points from junior JayVaughn Pinkston to open the second half and helped the Wildcats give themselves a more comfortable margin to work with.
"Those started with the stops we got," noted Pinkston. "They led to easy baskets. Inside-out basically."
For Bell, the win was his first in the NCAA Tournament.
"Selfishly, I definitely wanted to win one," stated the native of Orlando, Fla. "For me as a Villanova Basketball player, the next game is most important. (To get this one) meant a lot to me, though. Now we focus on Connecticut."
In the win over Milwaukee, the Wildcats endured a second consecutive difficult shooting night from beyond the 3-point arc (4-of-23, .174). In their last two games, VU is 8-of-42 (.190) from distance but persevered to get an NCAA Tournament win for the first time since 2010.
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