Nov. 28, 2013
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas - An impressive debut by sophomore guard Dylan Ennis highlighted a 94-79 Villanova victory over the University of Southern California (4-2 overall, 0-0 Pac 12) this afternoon at the Imperial Arena in the opening game of the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis. The win was VU's fifth in a row to open the season.
Ennis, who finished with 14 points and three assists in 23 minutes, was one of five Wildcats to end the afternoon in double figures. James Bell led the `Cats with 17 points, Darrun Hilliard added 16, Ryan Arcidiacono chipped in with 14 points and JayVaughn Pinkston added a dozen.
Pe'shon Howard led USC with 23 points.
Villanova never trailed over the course of the 40 minutes in the third meeting in the school's basketball histories between the Trojans and Wildcats.
"I thought our depth was a factor tonight," stated Wildcats head coach Jay Wright, who employed 10 players over the course of the contest, with nine logging 15 or more minutes. "I liked that."
Sophomore guard Arcidiacono opened the scoring with a 3-pointer that was followed a short while later by a triple from Hilliard. The Wildcats generated offense out of traps and built an 11-2 lead through the game's first four minutes.
Ennis - who sat out last season after transferring from Rice and missed the season's first four regular season contests after suffering a fractured bone in his right (shooting) hand - made his Villanova debut early in the first period and quickly made an impact, draining 3-point goals on consecutive possessions. Each time, though, the made three was answered by a 3-pointer by the Trojans' Howard. The Trojans shaved the gap to 20-16 after another triple by Howard at the 11:35 mark of the first period.
Four consecutive points from junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston helped the Cats push the lead to 24-16. On USC's next possession, though, junior James Bell picked up his second foul of the period trying to slow the Trojans' leading scorer, Byron Wesley, who entered the contest with a 19 ppg scoring average.
A Daniel Ochefu dunk extended VU's lead to 27-18 before Wesley and Howard sparked an 8-0 run to draw to 27-26 before a Bell jumper halted the surge.
Arcidiacono and Ennis helped fuel a strong burst to halftime for the Wildcats, igniting a 21-11 run that helped VU take a 48-37 lead into the break. Arcidiacono contributed 14 points and Ennis 12 over the first 20 minutes for the Wildcats. The Trojans got 29 points from Howard (16 points) and Wesley (13 points).
Ennis made a difference in those first 20 minutes for Villanova.
"He's got an intangible that is really valuable and it's energy," noted Wright. "As a student, teammate and person Dylan's got great energy. I was more concerned that he would be so (excited) to be playing. I thought he really did a great job, especially in the second half. He made some great passes and some good defensive plays.
"It was really nice to have him back."
USC got the margin into single digits early in the second half but the Wildcats had an answer each time. Sophomore Daniel Ochefu contributed six points, eight rebounds and steady defense against the Trojans' 7-2 Omar Oraby, who was limited to five points and four rebounds. Indeed, VU out-rebounded the taller Trojans 44-41 on the day.
The final count was 94-79.
Villanova will play in the semifinals on Friday night with a tip time estimated at 9:30 p.m. eastern time against Kansas, an 87-78 winner in Thursday's second quarterfinal.