The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Milwaukee Panthers 73-53 on Thursday night to advance to the third round, where they will face old Big East foe UConn. Darrun Hilliard led the Wildcats with 16 points, and Milwaukee's Austin Arians led all scoring with 17.
The first half was all but pretty for the 'Cats. Villanova did not convert on a single 3-point attempt, finishing the half 0-12 from behind the arc. The Wildcats shot out to a 6-0 lead on the efforts of Hilliard, Pinkston and Bell. But, 3-point shooting by Matt Tiby and Arians allowed the Panthers to catch up and regain the lead, which stretched as large as 5. Luckily for the Wildcats, the Panthers did not shoot well overall. At the 13:01 mark, the teams shot a combined 23.5 percent from the floor.
Milwaukee flourished with second chance points. They won the battle on the offensive glass by a 13-12 margin. It looked more glaring than that. J.J. Panoske had 3 of those, and the early second and third chance opportunities gave Milwaukee early momentum and a sense of hope. Panoske finished with 5 points and 6 rebounds, as well as the team's 2 blocks.
Normally a good passing team, the scoring drought for the Wildcats hurt their assist totals. For a team that ranks 20th in the country with 15 assists per game, the 'Cats only had 1 going into the third TV timeout, and 2 at halftime. The opportunities were there, but rushed 3-point attempts and only 3 made FG's in the first 20 shots contributed to the ugly stat line. The Panthers had a much easier time with their ball movement, creating baseline drives and great looks from 3. However, there shots did not fall either, and thus the biggest lead was 5. The beginning of this contest was similar to that of Senior Night against the Butler Bulldogs. Again, luck was on `Nova's side as Milwaukee could not convert.
Hart was the leading scorer off the bench with 4 in the first half. Milwaukee could not only finish their open shots and drives to the hoop, but 3 quick blocks by James Bell, Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston helped stop a big Panther run. Jordan Aaron of the Panthers had a worse night, however, going 1-15 from the field. He finished with a 6/7/5 stat slash. Credit the 'Nova defense for a well executed gameplan slowing down the high-scoring guard.
James Bell's shooting woes traveled to Buffalo. The senior had only 6 points at the half on 2-8 shooting (0-6 from 3) but contributed 7 rebounds. Bell ended the day going 5-14 to have 12 points on the day along with 3 steals, but went without a 3 pointer.
The second half was much smoother. The Wildcats went down low on offense and started off a 5-0 run after ending the first half on a 9-0 run. There was some sloppiness on offense, however, with 3 travels in the first 3 minutes of the half. These issues proved small, as the defense looked much stronger and the baseline was not open like half number one. Plus, the great ball movement by the Panthers was disturbed by Villanova's pressing defense, which was deployed after the break. Villanova would have 8 total steals on the day - 3 each by Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono (or as Verne Lundquist would say, Ryan Arcidiaco) - and 10 blocks, 3 by Pinkston.
The 'Cats would not make a 3 until the 12:01 mark in the second half by Kris Jenkins. After starting 0-16 from 3, the Wildcats would make 4 of their next 7 3's. The Wildcats ended on a 13-4 run highlighted by a big Daniel Ochefu slam and back-to-back 3's by Jenkins.
Hopefully the sluggish start was just due to rust after not competing since last Thursday. The second half showed a lot of good adjustments by Jay Wright, which should translate smoothly into Saturday's contest vs. the Connecticut Huskies. Tip time is 9:40 ET on TBS.