The Pavilion blasted some Taylor Swift music right before tip-off. Normally, that's reserved for Jack White's "Seven Nation Army" or Jay-Z or some other pump-up rap song. But the Wildcats listened to Swift and "shook off" the rust from their performance against Lehigh in a dominant 81-44 win over the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks on Monday Night at the Pavilion. Kris Jenkins led the Wildcats with 15 points, and Daniel Ochefu fell a rebound short of a double-double. Devin Martin led UMES with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Against one of the lesser-talented teams in all of NCAA Division 1, Villanova was able to coast early and cruise to a confidence-boosting victory, with much tougher games laying ahead.
After a missed hook shot by UMES' Mike Myers, Ochefu slammed a dunk home to get 'Nova off to a great start. Hilliard sank three free throws, Ochefu threw home another dunk, then Dylan Ennis hit from deep. Ryan Arcidiacono followed shortly after with another dagger from behind the arc and it was 13-2 before the first media timeout.
UMES was sitting on just one made field goal for nearly four and a half minutes. Josh Hart entered first off the bench, and Kris Jenkins and Phil Booth followed soon after, with UMES trailing 20-8.
The Wildcats scarcely used significant defensive pressure in the opening minutes, but it was key to starting a 9-0 run over a five-minute span.
Darryl Reynolds saw his first action of the season about halfway through the first, and was hacked on his first post-up. Refs called it an intentional foul, and Reynolds sank one of two for his first point of the year.
Even in blowouts there can still be times of trouble, and Villanova went over four minutes between made baskets, with Reynolds' free throw being the only point. But it was more a result of missed shots than poor execution, and the 'Cats got back on a roll.
Hart went sky-high on a few tip-ins off of missed jump shots, and he looks exactly like the player we saw last year, except possibly more composed. The only player not joining in the shooting department early on was Darrun Hilliard, with was 0-4 early and 0-3 from deep, although he contributed two assists and three free throws in the first half.
Eventually, Hilliard got into the mix with a bucket and a dunk. I stopped keeping track, but there were at least five breakaway dunks off of Hawk turnovers in the first half alone, most of them on a 15-0 run to close out the opening 20 minutes. At the half, Ochefu was a perfect 3-3 for six points, and seven players had at least four points. Ennis led all scorers with eight at the break. The 'Cats shot 55%-- although just 29% from deep-- in the first half, while the Hawks had just one player with multiple field goals and as a team had a 2:13 Assist:Turnover ratio.
The second half opened with UMES scoring first, but Hilliard broke into the 3-point column soon after. Jenkins had a sweet block that he turned into a reverse layup on the other end, Hart had a few nice cuts to the basket for points, and Villanova extended their lead to 54-21 with 14:44 left in the game.
Out of a media timeout, Booth hit a 3-pointer, which is one of the few good things you can actually see from a blowout like this. Layups should be made, turnovers should be forced, but seeing a three from a freshman in his first true home game is a good sign.
After a mini-slump where 'Nova failed to make a shot for over three minutes, Arch broke the UMES press with a long pass down the left side to JayVaughn Pinkston, which he converted for points. Ennis followed that up with an under-the-backboard layup.
Late in the second half, we saw Reynolds make his first basket, along with a few more free throws, giving every Wildcat player to that point at least five points.
Then the Bench Mob entered, and things really got fun. As the shot clock wound down, Kevin Rafferty drove the lane and his floater fell, giving him his first official points as a Wildcat. A 44-point lead would shrink a bit, but it was all gravy at that point.
Four Wildcats finished in double-digit scoring: Jenkins with 15, and Ochefu, Ennis, and Hilliard each with 10. Pinkston led the team with four assists.
As a team, 'Nova shot 57% from the field and 33% from behind the arc. Their 31 rebounds and 16 assists were spread evenly across the box score.
One more quick note: Booth did seem to struggle a bit towards the end handling the ball. Nothing I wouldn't expect from a freshman now and again, but we didn't see it as much against Lehigh in limited minutes.
Bobby Collins, a 1991 Eastern Kentucky graduate, is in his first year coaching the Hawks after replacing Frankie Allen. Allen went 42-139 in his six years as head coach. In addition to losing their head coach, UMES returned none of their starters from a 2013-14 squad that went 6-24.
"I probably made an error his first year, having him run the other team's offense all the time during practice. We didn't do a good enough job of teaching him our stuff. We wanted him to have fun, and that's where we went wrong. Last year was like a freshman year for him." -Wright, on Ennis' improvements this year
"Kris is like the quiet assassin. I didn't even know he did anything tonight to be honest with you. He doesn't always make the spectacular play, but he always makes the right play. He's a real calming influence on our team. We can put him in at any position. That was typical Kris Jenkins tonight." -Wright, on Jenkins' play tonight
"No matter what position you play, you gotta play Villanova basketball" -Jenkins, on Wright saying he can play four different positions
"It's complicated to play 4 different spots in our offense. He's being humble." -Wright, on Jenkins' above answer.