The Villanova Wildcats conquered the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers Wednesday night by a score of 90 to 59. The Cats scoring was led by JayVaughn Pinkston, who contributed 21 points and on a 9-15 shooting performance. Darrun Hilliard was not far behind with 18 points, shooting 8-10. Josh Hart and James Tahj Bell also players reached double digit scoring, with Hart chipping in 11 rebounds for a double-double. Julian Norfleet, Sam Prescott, and Rashad Whack led the opposition’s scoring.
The team staggered early, with Daniel Ochefu fouling his way to the bench. Villanova missed a few layups and turned the ball over. That did not last long. Nova looked like a top-25 team within 6:00 of the game clock. Defense and hard-nosed layups were the crux of a 15-0 run. Mount St. Mary’s never recovered from the deficit, and Villanova never looked back.
Mount St. Mary's shot 34.5% in the first half, and Nova shot 58.8%. In the second half, the Mountaineers fell to 25.0% while Villanova improved to 68.0%.
Villanova started and finished the game in the paint. Eighteen of their first 23 points were from the key. Good cuts and passes resulted in easy buckets. Two-thirds of the Wildcats’ final tally came from the paint.
This offensive emphasis was the polar opposite from last Friday’s abysmal 5-30 shooting performance from the 3-point line. Jay was not concerned about last week, but knew his team would be ready for this game.
"We’ve had some good practices since Lafayette… we could tell we were going to play well. They were really going at it."
Tony Chennault played confidently, contributing a team high 6 assists, 5 points, and 2 steals. What makes this more impressive is that he received 6 stitches in his lip last night from a collision in practice. Coach Wright said Chennault "still played fearlessly."
Chennault had a lot of company at the point position. Players like Hart, Hilliard, and even Bell did a lot of ball handling. Ryan Arcidiacono finally showed his new role for the season, playing more wing than point guard. He was able to use his touches for play-making rather than managing the offense.
When asked about his 4-guard strategy, Wright paused and laughed through his words.
"You can never have too many guards. It was nice."
Josh Hart played particularly well in his second collegiate match. The freshman achieved a double-double in just 22 minutes of play. Four of his rebounds were offensive. Hart scored in a myriad of ways, from a 3-pointer to fast break layups. He managed all this while providing defensive pressure and sharing responsibility for Mount St. Mary’s top scorer, Julian Norfleet.
Hart looked like Darrun Hilliard’s understudy Wednesday night. Jay lumped the two together when talking about the offense.
"We needed a guy who could beat their pressure and get to the rim, and [Josh Hart and Darrun Hilliard] did it."
Wright explained that what we’re seeing is Hart "improving every day," since a pre-season concussion set him back 2-weeks. Hart himself was humble. "I definitely have a good feeling about [this game], but I always have room to improve."
Worth noting is Henry Lowe logging his first career points on an assisted layup from Nick McMahon. Walk-ons everywhere rejoice.
This team was truly ready to play. They knew the scouting report and their responsibilities, and they were even smiling. For the first time in years, this basketball team has great chemistry. Players hit the floor for every loose ball. They talked each other through mistakes on the court and on the bench. This is a new-look Villanova program.
The Wildcats look to build more momentum against Towson on November 17 at the Pavilion. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 at 5:00pm EST.