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No. 8/12 Wildcats Lean on Reserves to Down Rider 88-67
Darrun Hilliard

Dec. 21, 2013

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VILLANOVA, Pa. - Another exceptional effort from its group of reserves helped lift No. 8 Villanova to its eleventh consecutive victory, an 88-67 verdict over Rider (5-5 overall, 0-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) on Saturday afternoon at the Pavilion.

Freshman Josh Hart led the Wildcats with 19 points, a season high. In all, Villanova's reserves outscored those from the Broncs' by a margin of 40-7.

"Our bench has been consistent and productive," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "It's been different guys every night. Forty is probably our best (effort) this year. But most nights we have gotten productive minutes from the bench. It's been Josh with defensive rebounding, Tony Chennault with assists, Dylan Ennis had seven assists last game and Kris Jenkins has given us good minutes. Darryl Reynolds will help us too but just hasn't gotten the chance yet because we have so many guys at his position.

"It may be the biggest strength of this team."

Only two Villanova squads have had better starts to a season since the program's first campaign in 1920-21. The 1961-62 Wildcats began the year with 12 straight triumphs and the 1937-38 group reeled off 13 in a row to start the season.

"That's a great start," stated Wright. "I'm very proud of that. There have been a lot of great teams here. I'm happy for these guys and I'm happy for our program."

Rider scored the game's first basket before James Bell responded with a pair of 3-point goals and Villanova never trailed again. The Wildcats built an 18-12 lead through the game's first nine minutes. Junior JayVaughn Pinkston then helped spark a surge of seven straight points that helped the `Cats craft a 25-15 edge with 7:13 remaining in the first period.

Rider shaved the gap to 27-20 before Villanova closed the period on a 16-9 surge to take a 43-29 lead into the break at halftime. Chennault collected his own rebound of a missed free throw for the final two points of the period.

Darrun Hilliard led the Wildcats in the first half with nine points and six rebounds. Villanova out-rebounded the Broncs 22-9 over the first 20 minutes and held a 12-1 edge in second chance points.

As it has often this year, Villanova looked inside early in the second half and was handsomely rewarded with a 9-2 run sparked by five points from Pinkston. That forced a Rider timeout with 17:35 to play in the second period and VU holding a 52-31 lead. The Wildcats were in control the rest of the way.

Hart was particularly effective, connecting on 7-of-8 field goal attempts in 25 minutes. Pinkston contributed 14 points while junior Darrun Hilliard provided 13 points and seven rebounds in his 24 minutes on the court.

"As coaches, you know Rider is a very dangerous team," stated Wright. "Their offensive numbers are staggering. We knew it would be tough to turn them over with their guards. They gave us a tough game.

"If our guys didn't come to play, we would have been beaten. Our guys came to play and I am proud of them. They're coming off exams, everybody is talking to them about the Syracuse game and it's really a pleasure to coach guys who can focus on the next game and respect their opponent. I thought that's what we did today."

Anthony Myles scored 22 points and added six rebounds for the Broncs.

Villanova owned a 37-29 edge on the glass and forced 16 Bronc turnovers, which produced 15 `Cat points.

The Wildcats will take a break for the holidays before beginning a stretch of four road games in their next five contests next Saturday at No. 2 Syracuse. Both teams will bring an 11-0 mark into the nationally televised contest (CBS/2:00 p.m.), their first since the Orange departed the BIG EAST for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Following that, Villanova visits Butler for its BIG EAST opener on Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m.

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