UC Riverside got out to a hot start, scoring first and holding the lead for a little over 10 minutes before the Wildcats took the lead for good on a Darrun Hilliard triple. Once Nova climbed out ahead, they would stay ahead for the rest of the game, steadily expanding their lead over the last 30 minutes of the game. At one point, the 'Cats went on a 32-6 run after half-time to blow the game wide open.
"They did a good job of switching on ball screens early," stated Wright. "We talked about having to work harder getting over ball screens and switches."
The Wildcats won 71-46 to advance in the winner's bracket to face St. Louis tomorrow. UCR moves on to play Boston College in the consolation bracket.
It was the first trip to California for the 'Cats since 2003, and the first game against a Division 1 opponent on the West Coast since 2001.
Maalik Wayns lead the way on offense with 23 points, 7 assists and one turnover, while three of his teammates scored in double-digits. Both Darrun Hilliard and James Bell each scored 12 points and connected on 3 triples. Ash Yacoubou also connected on a shot from deep and the team was 7-of-17 in total from beyond the arc, including 0-for-5 from Wayns.
"That was a good start to this tournament for us," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "We have struggled with quick guards at times and I just told Coach (Jim) Woolridge that they really did a good job with their game plan. I thought Mouph was really effective inside in the first half and Maalik kind of took over in the second half."
Yarou had three steals and finished with 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. His highlight reel moment was a first-half steal that Yarou took coast-to-coast for a basket. Yarou also lead the 'Cats with 9 points in the first half.
About 42% of Villanova's made field-goals were assisted.
UCR was lead by Daymond Cowlah on the scoreboard with 10 points. No other Highlander scored in double digits, but they hustled hard on defense to try and stop the Wildcats' athletes. For much of the first half they were able to get stops and stay in the game.
Next up for the Wildcats is a Friday tip-off against the St. Louis Bilikens tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. eastern and 11:30 a.m. locally. That game will be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2.