Dec. 15, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Depth can benefit a basketball team in multiple ways.
On Sunday at the Pavilion it helped lift the No. 10/14 Wildcats' to their tenth consecutive victory and third straight over a Philadelphia Big Five foe as VU posted a 73-52 triumph over La Salle (5-5 overall, 0-1 Big Five). The Villanova bench outscored La Salle's 29-15 and provided the boost Villanova needed as it pulled away to the victory after leading 38-34 at halftime.
Junior Darrun Hilliard scored 21 points to lead all scorers while Jerrell Wright led the Explorers with 20 points.
"One of the things I really like about our team at this point is that we know what James (Bell), JayVaughn (Pinkston), Darrun, and Arch can do," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "Josh, Dylan (Ennis) and Kris (Jenkins) are really starting to give us production off the bench. If you do it for one game or two, that's one thing. But if you do it consistently, you really start to develop some depth.
"I think we're most excited about that."
Hart finished with 13 points while Jenkins added 11 and Ennis five.
The two teams went back and forth over the game's first eight minutes. Jerrell Wright reeled off eight straight points for the Explorers while the Wildcats responded with balance - seven players contributed at least a point over that stretch. A Sam Mills basket with just under 11 minutes to play in the first half gave La Salle a 16-15 lead and James Bell picked up his second foul of the contest a short while later.
"Their guards really gave us trouble in the first half," stated Jay Wright. "I know (Jerrell) Wright was the one scoring all the points but it was because we were getting beat off the dribble by their guards. We knew that - their guards are good. So we couldn't press them."
Bell has been a linchpin for the Wildcats through the first 10 games but the Wildcats actually expanded their lead with the senior from Orlando, Fla., seated on the bench. Reserves Ennis - who would end the afternoon with seven assists without a turnover for the day - Hart and Kris Jenkins helped create a 38-28 cushion with 1:10 left before intermission.
La Salle finished the period on a 6-0 run to pull within 38-34 at the break.
After attempting 16 field goals from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes, the Wildcats looked inside early in the second period. JayVaughn Pinkston found success there, contributing five of VU's nine early points as VU built a 47-35 advantage over the first five minutes of the period.
"I thought starting the second half with good (defensive) stops, playing bigger, created the separation," noted Wright. "Once we created the separation I thought our depth was a factor."
Indeed, defense set the tone in the second half for Villanova as the Wildcats limited La Salle to 6-of-21 shooting over the final 20 minutes, including 0-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc. VU also forced 17 Explorer turnovers and that led to an 18-10 advantage in that category. Jerrell Wright, who had 18 points in the first period, added only two after the break.
Jay Wright again pointed to his bench.
"James Bell only played seven minutes in the first half," noted the VU head coach. "He was fresh to open the second half. I think our depth is productive depth. In the first half it was close and then Dylan, Tony (Chennault), Josh and Kris came in and we made a run. It's productive depth. It's nice to have."
Hart understands that bringing energy is his priority at this early stage of his college career.
"That's one thing that Coach Wright always tells me," said Hart, who also added five rebounds in 23 minutes. "He relies on me for my energy. James caught two fouls covering for (teammates). I knew once he went out I had to go in and play as hard as I could to give the team a spark."
The Wildcats are 10-0 to open the season for the first time since 2005-06. The best open to a season in school history came in 1937-38, when Villanova won its first 13 games.
"It's good to be 10-0," stated Hilliard, "but we've still got a lot of work to do."
Villanova will play once more before Christmas, hosting Rider on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 4:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1) at the Pavilion. The Villanova Basketball Alumni will be honored at halftime of that game.
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