It took Villanova a couple of minutes, but once they got going there was no way for La Salle to stop them as they cruised to a 84-70 win on Wednesday night at Tom Gola Arena in the first Big 5 matchup of the season for both schools. Villanova used stifling defense and their most efficient offensive performance of the season to hand the Explorers their first home loss of the year.
Yet again, it was a balanced offensive performance for Villanova as six players scored at least 8 points. Dylan Ennis was at the center of the victory, finishing with 15 points, 9 assists and 3 rebounds. Darrun Hilliard also broke out of his early season slump by registering 15 points on 6-12 shooting.
La Salle got surprising contributions from Khalid Lewis (17 points) and Cleon Roberts (8 points), but with Jerrell Wright battling foul trouble in the first half and Jordan Price off his game, Villanova pounced.
Save the first few minutes of the game, the first half was all Villanova. Registering 13 assists to just 2 turnovers, the Wildcats shot 58% from the field (4-6 3FG) and turned 8 La Salle turnovers into 17 points. Known for falling in love with the three-ball, Villanova's guards used crisp ball movement and the pump fake to perfection to create wide open driving lanes to the basket and stake themselves to a 47-29 halftime lead.
La Salle was briefly able to get within striking distance of making a game of it early in the second half with a 9-2 run, but Villanova snapped out of their cold spell courtesy of a deep three-pointer by Dylan Ennis as the shot clock wound down. From there, they kept La Salle at an arm's length and cruised to a comfortable victory.
The biggest lingering question for the Wildcats will be their ability to put lesser teams away. While La Salle never got closer than 10 points in the second half, they made a couple of runs to get the scorer closer than it should have been, and often it came against Villanova's backups. The last run, which came with roughly 2 minutes left in the game, left Jay Wright furious and forced him to put his starters back in to the game to close out the victory.
Villanova moved to 7-0 on the season and returns to the Pavilion at 1pm ET on Saturday as they play host to St. Joseph's (PA) in the 2014 edition of The Holy War (followed by the football playoff game vs. Liberty at 4:30pm ET). La Salle fell to 4-3 and will host Temple at 12pm ET on Saturday.
- Daniel Ochefu had another nice game with 10 points and 8 rebounds and was perfect from the floor (3-3) and the FT line (4-4).
- Ryan Arcidiacono struggled from the field again (3-8) and had just 2 assists to 1 turnover.
- Josh Hart was again a bundle of energy - his 12 points off the bench came from attacking the basket and grabbing offensive boards.
- JayVaughn Pinkston's 12 points and 7 rebounds were quiet, but he played a nice game racking up 3 assists and 2 steals in the process.
- Darryl Reynolds and Phil Booth are good enough to join the rotation on a more consistent basis, but it's clear that even in a mild blowout, Jay Wright is still trying to get his top 7 guys as many minutes as possible.
- 20 assists on 30 made field goals, and just 9 turnovers. As Jon Rothstein noted during the broadcast, this is Jay Wright's most unselfish team.