Nov. 8, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Villanova Wildcats used a 46 point second half to pull away from Lafayette on Friday night en route to a 75-59 victory at the Pavilion in the 2013-14 regular season opener for both teams.
Senior James Bell recorded a new career high with 24 points and also added nine rebounds. Junior JayVaughn Pinkston scored 14 second half points and 22 for the game to go with four rebounds and a single turnover. Junior Darrun Hilliard contributed 13 points, a career best seven assists, five rebounds and three steals to the cause.
"I thought they wore us down," stated Lafayette head coach and former Villanova guard Fran O'Hanlon.
"After a game like that is over and you win you feel like it's a great game to open the season with," added Villanova coach Jay Wright. "You really get tested there. That is a very well-coached, very good team.
"We're not surprised at all. We watched film of them in the (Patriot League) championship game and knew that they were just a really good team. They'll be good this year and next year."
The Wildcats overcame a 5-of-30 shooting night from outside the 3-point arc. Villanova outrebounded the Leopards 41-27, thanks to a 25-4 edge in that category after intermission.
Bell opened the scoring with a 3-point goal and carried the offensive load for the Wildcats in the early portion of the first half. The native of Orlando, Fla., reeled off VU's first 13 points while connecting on 5-of-7 from the field along the way.
Lafayette used crisp offense to produce an 11-5 run that pulled the Leopards even at 11 six minutes into the period sparked. The run was keyed by long distance shooting as Lafayette was 3-of-5 from deep over the game's first 8:01.
Yet as the half wore on defense was the principal story. The Wildcats forced 12 Leopard turnovers to help offset a cold shooting half - VU was 10-of-30 from the field and just 3-of-18 from the floor. Lafayette, meanwhile, stayed close in part due to a 23-16 rebounding advantage and accuracy from deep (5-of-10).
A pair of Pinkston free throws with 3.3 seconds left in the first half staked the Wildcats to a 29-27 edge at intermission. Bell's 15 points led both teams in scoring and Pinkston chipped in with eight points.
Sophomore Daniel Ochefu opened the scoring for the Wildcats to push the lead to 31-27 before Lafayette reeled off an 8-0 burst to move out to a 35-31 advantage. The margin grew to 38-32 as the Leopards connected on 4-of-5 from the floor to open the second period.
But Villanova patiently fought its way back to despite its long-range shooting difficulties.
"We have a year under our belts together," noted Bell. "We're just comfortable. We know what to do in a given situation. We know how to fight in situations like that."
The Wildcats rode the work of Pinkston and Hilliard in the lane and slowly expanded their edge after breaking a 47-47 deadlock with 9:10 to play. From that point forward, Villanova outscored the Leopards 28-12 with a lot of that damage coming from the free throw line. VU converted 28-of-38 from the charity stripe, led by Pinkston who was 10-of-14 there.
"We just had more big athletes than they did," stated Wright. "It does wear you down."
Wright praised the work of reserve point guard Tony Chennault and Hilliard.
"I thought Tony did a really good job as a senior point guard for us," stated Wright of the Philadelphia product who added five points, three assists and just one turnover. Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) was healthy tonight but hasn't practiced much since last Thursday (bruised ribs). Tony really helped us."
Hilliard was 1-of-7 from outside the 3-point arc but was still a force, especially after halftime.
"I'm proud of Darrun," stated Wright. "That might have been his best game he's played here. He's had games where he's scored more, but that was a great floor game by him."
Villanova now looks ahead to its next game, next Wednesday evening, at the Pavilion at 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network/1210 AM) against Mount St. Mary's.