JayVaughn Pinkston drove the length of the floor. Delaware guard Devonne Pinkard was defending him. Standing at the free-throw line, waiting to pick up Pinkston, there was fear in his eyes. Pinkston already had 16 points at that point, and every last one of them had come from driving in the lane or shooting the resulting free throws.
A half-second later, Pinkston drove right by him for a relatively easy layup. 66-60 Villanova. Then the crowd got into it. Kyle Anderson couldn’t save them. Jarvis Threatt couldn’t save them. Davon Usher and Carl Baptiste hadn’t impacted the game in a long time. What they needed was Devon Saddler, and he couldn’t do anything.
Usher certainly tried his best at times. On his way to 27 points, he played through contact, garnered multiple and-ones, and tied the game at 76 with a 3-point jumper with 3:02 remaining.
But Villanova played true to its core, and it led to them pulling away late for an 84-80 victory over the Delaware Blue Hens Friday evening at the Pavilion. Pinkston led the Wildcats with 26 points and five rebounds, and Darrun Hilliard added 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
With 10 minutes remaining, it was 60-60. A brand new ballgame. And Ochefu found his groove. He saved a ball from going out-of-bounds, then gave Villanova a 62-60 lead with an almost-dunk. Not sure what to call it when you jump up and drop the ball in the hoop rather than dunking.
Hilliard followed with two free throws, and Pinkston drove the length of the floor. The inside-outside game developed over the course of the night, and Pinkston took over during the later minutes. As Pinkston put it, "If I can get the rebound and push it, then just push it, and everything will take care of itself. That’s what Coach always says."
Delaware raced out of the gate after halftime, jumping out to a quick 12-6 run and a 52-49 lead on the backs of Jarvis Threatt and Kyle Anderson. By the 10:52 mark, they had accumulated 15 of Delaware’s 19 second-half points.
Villanova kept in it thanks to layups by James Bell, but he was the only Wildcat to make a field goal in the first seven minutes.
Early on, Nova’s defense seemed to struggle. Delaware scored a quick six points in under two minutes, leading Jay Wright to call a timeout. The Blue Hens scored first out of the break as well. They were scoring almost at will and took a 12-8 lead into the first media timeout. Offensive rebounds led to tons of second-chance points for Delaware.
There was offense aplenty though, as James Bell scored seven straight of ’Nova’s points to keep them neck-and-neck. Layups by Ryan Arcidiacono and Pinkston gave the Wildcats the lead at 21-20 with 11:37 remaining in the first half, their first since 4-2.
At the under-12 media timeout, Villanova was shooting 9-13 and Delaware was shooting 9-17.
Villanova started to pull away, 30-22, after two Delaware turnovers and several Villanova rebounds capped a 9-0 run. But the Blue Hens fought back to take the lead at 34-30 with 6:15 remaining.
For over 11 minutes in the first half, the only Blue Hens to score were Usher and Baptiste. But Threatt and Pinkard added buckets to complement a 16-2 Blue Hen run.
Hilliard scored five late points to help Villanova come back to take a 43-40 lead into halftime with a layup and a three-pointer. The ’Cats shot 23 percent from behind the arc in the first half, and 47 percent overall. Meanwhile, Delaware shot 50 percent from the field and from three. Everyone but Ochefu had an assist in the first half, and Daniel led the team after 20 minutes with five rebounds.
Ochefu finished with 11 rebounds to lead the Wildcats. He chipped in six points along with two blocks and two steals. Unfortunately, his five turnovers continue to be his lone detriment, but he’s certainly building on that.
One notable difference for Villanova was their inside defense in the second half. Baptiste scored 13 points in the first half, but was held scoreless for the rest of the game. Wright added: "When the guards made a couple threes early on, our guys were afraid to leave their man, so he really took advantage at the low post and controlled the inside game. In the second half, we started playing better defense and left our man to help out."
Villanova has now won all 12 meetings with the Blue Hens.
Josh Hart played 24 minutes tonight, more than Chennault‘s 16. Six Wildcats played at least 20 minutes. On the flip side, Usher and Anderson played all 40 minutes, Threatt added 39 and Baptiste played 36. Only six Blue Hens made a mark on the stat sheet, even with starting forward Marvin King-Davis fouling out.
Delaware’s captain and best player, Devon Saddler, is currently in the midst of a one-month suspension for violating team and school policies. Saddler is the second-leading active scorer in Division I with 1,716 points, although his team had won both previous games in his absence.
When asked about Dylan Ennis’ possible return for the tournament in the Bahamas, Wright said, "He couldn’t really do anything today, he just got the cast off today, so I’d say in about three days we’ll be able to see where he is. We’ll ease him in as he gets going, cause it’s his dominant hand."