Nov. 18, 2011
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Villanova Wildcats rode the work of a trio of juniors to a 79-69 victory over Delaware (0-2 overall) on Friday night at the Pavilion. Classmates Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou contributed 61 of the `Cats 79 points to help the Wildcats post their third win in as many games in the young season.
Villanova led 38-24 at the halftime but saw the Blue Hens narrow the margin to 44-40 on the strength of a 16-6 run in the first 4:34 of the second half. However, key baskets by Cheek (21 points) and Wayns (21 points) down the stretch helped VU maintain the lead and grab the victory.
Devon Saddler of Delaware kept the heat on the Wildcats all night long, finishing with 27 points and four assists in 39 minutes. Kyle Anderson sank four second half 3-point goals to add 12 points for the Blue Hens.
"We're obviously a work in progress here but you have to give Delaware a lot of credit," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "Devon Saddler was incredible tonight. To have the ball in his hands that much and only turn it over three times was incredible. Their other guys played well off of him.
"Thank God Dominic made some big shots in the second half. We could have been in more trouble than it looked like we were in. He saved us a number of times."
Cheek was five of nine from the field in the second half, including three triples. He had been held scoreless for the first half until dropping in a rebound basket as the first half horn sounded. From that point forward, he would score 19 points in the final 20 minutes, many of them as the Blue Hens seemed poised to push the `Cats further against the wall.
"They did a great job of playing off Saddler," noted Wright.
The first half was dominated by Yarou. The native of Benin drew two early fouls from Blue Hens forward Jamelle Hagins, who had blocked seven Wildcat shots in the meeting between these two teams last December. More importantly, Yarou sank 6-of-9 from the field and had 15 of his team's 38 points.
But things changed after the break. Delaware's frontline held its own and forced the Wildcats guards to step up - which they did.
"They did a great job on Mouph in the second half - they just wore him down," stated Wright.
"We're learning how to be a good team. We had what, a 14-point halftime lead? You have to come out in the second half and build on it."
Together, Yarou, Wayns and Cheek were 21-of-38 from the field on the night.
This was Cheek's second 20-point plus outing of the season. Through three games he is averaging 22.0 ppg after averaging 5.6 ppg in 2010-11.
"The best complement you can give any player is to look at his minutes," explained Wright. "Dom played 35 minutes tonight. He is the guy we wanted on Saddler and did a great job on him in the first half. He didn't' do as good a job in the second half but he kept at it. He kept battling. His maturity on the floor is awesome. He got that huge rebound at the end of first half.
"He's doing all the little things and he's a smart player."
Delaware connected on .415 of its field goal attempts on the evening while VU converted .482 of its tries. The Blue Hens held a 36-34 edge on the glass.
Darrun Hilliard led the Wildcats with six rebounds while James Bell established a new career high with seven assists (without a turnover). Maurice Sutton - another junior - provided some key defensive minutes in the second half, even chasing Saddler at times, and finished with three points, four rebounds and a steal.
Villanova is idle until Thanksgiving Day when it sees its first action away from home this season at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Cal. The Wildcats meet UC Riverside in the opening round at 4:30 p.m. eastern time (ESPN2/ESPN 950 Radio).