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Early Surge Helps Carry No. 14 Wildcats Past Penn 77-54
Darrun Hilliard scored 19 points against Penn
 
Darrun Hilliard scored 19 points against Penn
 

Dec. 4, 2013

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VILLANOVA, Pa. - The No. 14/19 Villanova Wildcats jumped out to a large lead early by scoring 31 of the game's first 40 points and overcame a cold scoring second half to outlast Penn 77-54 in a Philadelphia Big Five contest played at the Pavilion tonight. VU improves to 8-0 this season, its best start since winning nine straight to open the 2009-10 campaign.

The Quakers fall to 2-5 overall, 0-2 in the Big Five.

Junior Darrun Hilliard led all scorers with 19 points, including four 3-point field goals.

Villanova picked up the victory despite missing its first 14 field goal attempts in the second half. The Wildcats picked up 31 points at the free throw line.

"We certainly didn't play a pretty game," stated Wildcats head coach Jay Wright. "When that happens, it's always the other team that causes it. We were a little bit off our game, but they were really good. They executed their game plan, had great guard play and played harder than us. So we don't look good.

"I give them credit. We're going to learn from this. That's what the season is. It's another experience for us."

Hilliard and senior James Bell helped get the Wildcats off to an early 11-0 lead with an assist from senior Tony Chennault, who drew a starting assignment in place of sophomore Daniel Ochefu. Hilliard drained two 3-pointers in the surge while Bell added another along with an alley-oop slam off a lob from Chennault.

As it did for Villanova in its visit to the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend, Villanova's bench made an instant impact. The Wildcats got 15 quick points from the trio of freshman Josh Hart, sophomore Dylan Ennis and freshman Kris Jenkins to help extend the advantage to 31-9 midway through the first half.

But the Quakers put together a quick 12-0 on the strength of four consecutive 3-point field goals, including three from guard Miles Jackson-Cartwright, to close to within 10 points. Villanova patiently rebuilt the lead and pushed it back to 46-28 at intermission. Hilliard led the way with 13 first period points for Villanova while junior JayVaughn Pinkston and Hart each supplied eight points.

Cartwright paced the Quakers with 14 first half points.

A key for the Wildcats in the first half was their ability to sink threes. They were 8-of-18 from deep in the first 20 minutes but the flow of points was cut off as the second half began. Suddenly, the Quakers steadily whittled away at the lead, knocking it down to 53-44 after Tony Bagtas sank a 3-point goal for the Quakers with just under nine minutes remaining.

Villanova's defense held firm, however, and allowed the Wildcats to weather the storm. The first made 3-pointer of the second half came from Jenkins and pushed the lead back to 63-48 with 5:34 to go in the contest. From there, VU pulled away to the 77-54 triumph, its 11th in a row over the Quakers.

"In no way was this looking past (Penn)," stated Wright. "It was just being lackadaisical in basics. We started the same way against Iowa. We are not a finished product at all. It's just what we are. I love `em - I think we can be a good team. We have a lot of work to do."

Another Philadelphia Big Five test awaits Villanova on Saturday night at Saint Joseph's (6:00 p.m./CBS Sports Network/1210 WPHT Radio).

Note: Ochefu did not start this game after failing to complete an academic project. He played 12 minutes as a reserve, contributing three points, three assists and three rebounds...Penn owned a 24-12 advantage on points in the paint ... The Wildcats won the battle of bench scoring by a 28-14 margin.

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