Some teams shy away from the big stage, but not the Villanova Wildcats. Under the bright lights of the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, the 12-ranked Wildcats annihilated the Rams, 77-53.
JayVaughn Pinkston paced the Wildcats in his return home to Brooklyn, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds. Throughout the entire game, the senior team captain was incredibly active in the post, both offensively and defensively.
Although he only recorded three points on 1-7 shooting, Ryan Arcidiacono finished the game with nine assists and came up with a key, diving steal and pass to Josh Hart for an and-one fastbreak layup. Hilliard also had his strongest game of the young season with 14 points and some key baskets to initiate the Wildcat run in the second half.
As Coach Wright has implored his team throughout the beginning of the season, the Wildcats focused on feeding the post against a smaller Rams team. Pinkston was the early beneficiary, connecting on his first four shots of the game and finishing the first half 5-6 from the field for 13 points. His activity wasn't limited to the offensive end, as he took a momentum-changing charge midway through the first.
VCU started the second half on a 6-0 including two strong finishes from Mo Alie-Cox. The Wildcats, however, responded with a 22-3 run led by tenacious defense and five points from both Darrun Hilliard and Kris Jenkins, as well as a three from Arcidiacono. Over this run, the Rams did not make a field goal, while Villanova's well balanced offense hit its stride. This run extended for the rest of the second half, as the Wildcats outscored the Rams 45-23.
"It was a privilege for us to get a test like this," head coach Jay Wright said after the game. "The way that they play forces you to make plays. It puts pressure on you right from the opening tip. When we looked at the schedule and saw we had this game, we knew it was going to come at a good time because it was going to provide a test."
Villanova shot 50% from the field off 20 assists over the course of the game. Consistently making the extra pass, the Wildcats fed the ball inside before opening up their game to a three point barrage in the second half, shooting 6-10 in the second half form long range.
Defensively, however, is where the Wildcats made their imprint on the game. Villanova held VCU to only four assists throughout the game and recorded five steals and five blocks. They also out rebounded the Rams, 39-31, led by 9 boards from Daniel Ochefu.
The team continued to roll through the sound of the final buzzer thanks to Villanova's impressive and efficient bench. Jenkins built on his 15-point performance against UMES with 13 points including 2-4 from three. Hart recorded ten points, Booth finished with nine, and Reynolds chipped in with a solid four points.
The Wildcats will now take on the winner of Michigan-Oregon tomorrow night at 10 PM EST.