The Villanova Wildcats improve to 3-0 in conference play with a (score) win over the Seton Hall Pirates. Darrun Hilliard led the 'Cats scoring with 19 points while the Pirates' Brian Oliver led all scoring with 20.
The Wildcats shot out to a quick 14-6 lead with Ryan Arcidiacono hitting the first 2 shots of the game, both threes. The efforts of Brandon Mobley and Brian Oliver closed the early gap, however the Wildcats were always able to answer. The Wildcats ended the first half on a poor 3-11 shooting after starting 9-13 from the floor, in which The Hall were only able to close the deficit by 3.
There's the story of the game for Seton Hall. They were unable to take advantage of Wildcat turnovers and missed shots.
Both teams had a solid first half, with Villanova shooting 48.3% from the field to better SHU's 45.5%. Both school's were better than 44% from 3 as well. At the first TV timeout, the Wildcats 5-7 from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc. However, going into the half, Villanova only held a 6 point lead in what felt like an underwhelming opening 20 minutes despite the offensive stats.
Sterling Gibbs and Brian Oliver were the centerpieces of the Pirate offense, with Gene Teague (head) and Fuquan Edwin (knee) both inactive. Both finished half number one with 6 points, with Stephane Manga leading with 9 points on 4-4 shooting.
The second half, however, was a completely different story. Nine Seton Hall turnovers lead to a stagnant offense as well as poor shot selection.
James Bell saw his woes carried over from Providence. Having only 5 points on Sunday, he could only spot 9 points on 2-5 shooting today while again playing through foul trouble. He picked up his 3rd foul early in the 2nd half. He finished with 2 assists and 2 rebounds as well. Arcidiacono made up for Bell's absence, going 5-10 from the field (3-8 from three) to finish with 14 points, but only 2 assists. Dylan Ennis led the assist category with 4, while chipping in 7 points on 2-2 shooting from downtown.
Darrun Hilliard's 3-point form was in full force as well, going 6-10 from the field and 4-5 from behind the arc. He also added 3 free throws on 3 attempts. It's good to see his FT% increase as of late. He also dished 2 assists and threw 2 blocks.
Manga's great first half was no benchmark for his play thereafter. In the middle of the second half, he turned the ball over on three straight possessions. While Villanova was only able to create 3 points off those TO's, Manga only played 6-second-half minutes, without taking another shot. When asked if it was difficult to not reward Manga more minutes with his great play in the past few games, Coach Kevin Willard simply responded, "No."
Those 3 Manga turnovers were key momentum shifters, as a lead that hovered over 10 points soon expanded to 15.
Josh Hart continued his stellar hustle play, as well as going in double figures for his 6th straight contest. He finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds, including 2 big offensive rebounds and the usual "dive into the stands" to save a ball. Wright applauded his play recently, saying "His scoring is great, but a lot of it comes from his offensive rebounds, his hustle plays. Great defensive player."
Seton Hall's Jaren Sina had a game to forget, going 0-7 from the field. On top of that, his defense around the perimeter was subpar as both Hilliard and Arch finished with strong games.
Wright also praised JayVaughn Pinkston's replies to the double teams. "He did a great job. The first play of the game, we went inside to JayVaughn, they trapped him and he turned it over. And every time after that, he found the open man and found the other side of the floor. He's learning that to have a guy to double team, it shows a lot of respect." Coach Willard admitted that the reason for the late game struggle with the double team was because Patrik Auda "is only built to play inside for a few minutes." Pinkston's 10 second half points mirrored that weakness.
Speaking of respect, JayVaughn reached the 1000-point threshold with an emphatic dunk late in the second half.
Jay Wright called the team's defense on Sterling Gibbs "fair, with the second half being much better." Oliver, however, finished 7-points better than Gibbs, and Wright was impressed with how well he handled the defensive pressure. "He hit some really tough shots. I thought we did a really good job on him in the second half. Some of them we were right there. If it was a closer game, we would've made some adjustments, but then that would have opened it up for Gibbs."
Again, that was the biggest key for Villanova. Seton Hall was unable to take use of the turnovers and missed shots, and therefore the double digit lead stayed true. A clearly sloppy second half indeed.
Jay Wright is looking forward to the next contest against St. John's Red Storm.
"We just gotta keep getting better everyday. There's a lot of things to improve on from this game. The season's a journey. Every season is a journey. Just getting better and looking forward to tomorrow."
With the next game being in Madison Square Garden, Pinkston laughed and said, "I don't like playing there with all the pressure, however I look forward to the challenge." He also noted a lot of family and friends will be in attendance.
The Wildcat's next matchup will be a Saturday afternoon contest versus the St. John's Red Storm at 1:00pm ET. It will air on Fox Sports 1. Again, with the game being in the Tri-State Area, there should be a very strong Villanova crowd in attendance.
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