Dec. 28, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova (9-4 overall, 0-0 BIG EAST) endured a rough night at the offensive end but relied on gritty defense and timely free throw shooting to defeat the New Jersey Institute of Technology (6-6 overall, 0-0 Great West) by the final count of 70-60 on Friday night at the Pavilion.
The `Cats converted just 20-of-65 field goal attempts (.308) and were 5-of-27 (.185) from beyond the 3-point arc. However, VU had its lowest turnover output of the campaign (eight) and dropped in 25-of-33 from the charity stripe to emerge victorious.
"For us to pull out a W without shooting the ball well is good," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "I give (NJIT) a lot of credit - they have played a lot of teams tough. I thought their guards were great and really controlled the tempo.
"Sometimes you can't buy a shot and we couldn't tonight. We found a way, though, to win a game when we couldn't make a shot. We took care of the ball better. NJIT played us tough. We did enough to win."
Ryan Arcidiacono paced the Wildcats with 17 points, including four of the five 3-pointers Villanova drained on the night. Sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston added several key baskets in the second half when the game was close and finished with 10 points and six caroms.
The Wildcats sank three of their first four field goal attempts before a cold spell where they missed eight straight cut into what had been a 7-3 lead built over the first four minutes of the contest. A Chris Flores triple gave NJIT its first lead at 10-9 with just over 13 minutes left on the first half clock.
The tenor of the contest didn't change much through the half as Villanova struggled to find the kind of offensive flow it had enjoyed in its last action on Dec. 22, an 83-56 win at Monmouth. After sinking 15-of-22 from 3-point territory in West Long Branch, the Wildcats missed 10 straight from long-range after Arcidiacono sank the team's first attempt of the evening in the first minute.
In the final minutes of the period, the Wildcats were able to build a 32-25 lead before a late Ky Howard bucket shaved the deficit to 32-27 at intermission. Arcidiacono led the `Cats with nine points as VU converted just 9-of-36 from the field (.250). NJIT got the better of VU on the glass in the first half as well, collecting 24 to the Wildcats' 23.
"I thought we ran good offense in the first half," stated Wright. "We only turned it over three times and were getting good looks. We just didn't make them."
A pair of Mouphtaou Yarou free throws opened the second half scoring before NJIT responded with a deep 3-pointer from Ryan Woods to cut the gap to 34-30 with under 19 minutes left. But Arcidiacono helped key a Villanova surge, as the `Cats produced an 8-2 run to take a 42-32 lead with 15:59 left.
NJIT bounced right back to find Flores in the corner for a 3-pointer to close the margin to 42-35 with 14:46 to play in the period. Arcidiacono helped push the advantage back to 50-42 but the Highlanders scored nine of the game's next 10 points to knot the contest at 51 with 7:28 to play in the period.
Five consecutive points from Pinkston gave VU a 59-54 lead before an Odera Nweke follow on a possession where the Highlanders created three offensive rebounds, made it 59-56 at the final official timeout with 3:39 to go on the clock.
Villanova, though, got a series of defensive stops and made its free throws count in the homestretch to put away a 70-60 victory, its fifth in a row.
"Our defense was just OK - we can get a lot better," stated Wright. "Every time we got a lead, we relaxed defensively and ended up with a stupid foul or a backdoor cut. The consistency is not where I would like it to be. But you learn from it and move on."
BIG EAST play opens next Wednesday night, when the `Cats host St. John's at the Pavilion at 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU/610 WIP).