Villanova's Daniel Ochefu elevates to throw down a dunk against St. John's on Wednesday night. - USA TODAY Sports
The Wildcats battled Catholic-7 rival St. John's, to a tie in regulation, but dominated in extra-time to secure a sixth-straight victory.
When the regulation clock expired, the Wildcats had played to an 83-all draw against the St. John's Red Storm. The Wildcats were hardly dominant in regulation, but overtime couldn't have gone better for the home team, who outscored their opponent 15-3 in the extra period to lock down a victory.
"Our fans need that," Jay Wright said about the win. "They need to see six wins in a row, they need to see a Big East win at home."
Along the way, the 'Cats were helped by a 32-point outburst by freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, and 26 points from super-sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston. Darrun Hilliard, however, made the clutch plays down the stretch that helped the Wildcats keep things close and ultimately win. Despite going just 3-of-13 from the field, Hilliard finished the game with 14 points, accumulating half of his total at the free-throw line, where he was a perfect, 7-for-7.
The overtime dominance was perhaps punctuated by an impressive highlight-reel dunk from freshman big man Daniel Ochefu, who scored just 6 points off the bench, but collected 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 12 minutes of action.
Villanova improved to 10-4 on the season and 1-0 in the Big East and they are now just 3 wins away from matching last season's total.
The 'Cats played a second-consecutive close game, and like their post-Christmas contest against NJIT, the young Villanovans found a way to win — even if it was ugly.
They led their opponents by three points at the half, helped there by a technical foul incurred by St. John's point guard Jamal Branch, who shoved Arcidiacono late in the period. He was one of four players who fouled out for St. John's, including JaKarr Sampson, Amir Garrett, and Sir'Dominic Pointer. Villanova took advantage of those fouls, scoring 34 points at the charity stripe, at an 81% clip.
They could have won a close one in regulation, but Villanova made some key mistakes down the stretch to allow the game to get to overtime. With 4.5 seconds left in the second half and the Johnnies' down by two points, D'Angelo Harrison drew a foul in the lane. He would sink both free throws to tie the game. The 'Cats would take things from there.
Every Wildcat who touched the ball turned it over at least once, in a game that saw the team cough it up 18 times in total. That helped to cancel out the 41-31 rebounding edge that the 'Cats gained during the game (16-9 on the offensive glass). James Bell led the team in both categories, with 4 turnovers and 11 rebounds.
Villanova has 14 assists in the game (to 27 made field goals), only three of which came from the two point guards.
Thirteen of the 18 turnovers were committed in the terribly-sloppy first half, but the Wildcats did a much better job protecting the ball in the second half and overtime.
While Villanova is hardly dominating the hardwood this season, the Wildcats are no longer a lock to blow close close games late as they often did last season. While it is still early in the season, the Wildcats are already ahead of where they were this time last year, if only in record.
Next up for the Wildcats is a January 9th meeting with the USF Bulls, who have been a bit of a kryptonite to Jay Wright's teams in recent seasons.