Nov. 11, 2011
VILLANOVA, Pa. - One of the questions entering 2011-12 for the Villanova Wildcats was how this young team could compensate for the departed firepower of the graduated Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena, each of whom produced more than 1,000 career points.
So far, so good.
In their first action of 2011-12, the `Cats generated ample firepower in a 106-70 victory over Monmouth before the 115th consecutive sellout crowd of 6,500 at the Pavilion on Friday night. Juniors Dominic Cheek and Mouphtaou Yarou each established new career highs, with 27 and 24 points respectively.
"I liked that we got better than we were against New York Tech (in Tuesday's exhibition game)," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who recorded his 225th victory as Wildcat head coach in the first game of his 11th season.
"Our juniors made shots and the attention they paid to Maalik (Wayns) opened some things up for us. We've got work to do, especially guarding the dribble drive, but I thought this was a good step for us."
The 106 points scored matched the second highest point output in a season opener for Villanova. VU also notched 106 points in the 1960-61 opener and posted its highest first game production in a 117-69 triumph over Merrimack to begin the 1979-80 campaign.
Cheek's early scoring helped VU gain control in the first half. He scored the first points of the new season on a steal and breakaway dunk and then sank his first triple of the night with 17:04 left in the half. He would finish the first 20 minutes with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
"I think I have a more clear mind than I did last year," stated Cheek, whose previous career best was 17 points, most recently against USF in January. "Whatever Coach (Wright) needs me to do, I'm going to do.
"The way our offense is, shots are going to come. Teams pay attention to Maalik or Mouph and that means I will have chances to score."
A late flurry in the final two minutes turned a 10-point lead with 2:48 left in the half into a 55-36 halftime advantage.
"I thought we were playing well until the last two minutes of the first half," stated new Monmouth head coach King Rice. "They went on a run and made a bunch of threes to extend the lead."
The other factor for VU was Yarou on the interior. The native of Benin was 9-of-12 from the field and 6-of-7 at the line in 25 minutes. He also added two blocks and an assist.
Villanova's newcomers made their presence felt too. Hilliard scored nine points in 17 miuntes, JayVaughn Pinkston added nine points and four rebounds while Yacoubou chipped in with seven points and Markus Kennedy six to go with his eight rebounds.
Wayns contributed 15 points and five assists in 27 minutes. No Wildcat saw more than 28 minutes of action (Cheek).
Wright saw some things that he would like to see upgraded.
"They shot 29 free throws and we shot 26," he noted. "That's a sign of how they were able to get into the lane. We need to do a better job of keeping teams off the line."
For the most part, though, Wright was encouraged.
"We did some good things," he stated. "Now it's important that we get better the next time we play."
That opportunity comes Tuesday night at the Pavilion when the Wildcats open the Philadelphia Big Five portion of the slate by hosting La Salle (7:00 p.m./ESPN3/ESPN 950).