The Villanova Wildcats were in complete control of this game from start to finish as they easily defeated the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights 91-54 at the Pavilion Friday night. The game plan was clear from the starting whistle: get to the paint. And boy did they ever! While the team was so-so from 3, they drove or passed into the paint at every opportunity, taking advantage of a clear mismatch with FDU's smaller players.
Possibly the most intriguing story line coming into the game was how guards Ryan Arcidiacono (12 Pts, 4 Ast, 3 Stl) and Jalen Brunson (12 Pts, 4 Ast, 66% FG%) would play together in the back court. As it turns out, they were interested to see themselves. "We actually haven't really been playing a lot together because coaches wanted us to go head to head in practice. So probably until the last week or two weeks ago we've been going up against each other," said Arcidiacono after the game. Watching the game you would have thought they had been playing together for years. This looks to be the start of another great Villanova guard combo, and it should only get better as the season continues. Head Coach Jay Wright reviewed their play saying, "There was one time Arch came down in transition, had a wide open shot, found Jalen for a three. There was another time Jalen got a drive, kicked it out to Arch for a three. And both of them enjoy that, but yet they still can score when they need to score. It's pretty cool."
But the player of the night was clearly Daniel Ochefu (16 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Blk). In just 20 minutes of play, the Beast of the Big East was unstoppable on both ends of the court. On offense he was able to post up for easy buckets, as well as make quick cuts to the basket for easy dunks, resulting in a 70% FG%. If this is the type of inside game we'll see all season, Nova fans will have a lot to cheer about. Even his teammates were impressed. Fellow Senior Arcidiacono said, "Daniel's a beast. We saw it out there tonight. We have to show him some love too, because he was just a beast out there defensively, offensively, on the offensive glass. We don't get some of the 3's and some of the extra possessions without Daniel and Darryl and everyone rebounding."
As we saw many times last year, whenever the Knights tried to stop one Wildcat it just left another scoring option open. This led to all five Villanova starters finishing with double-digit scoring. Kris Jenkins (14 Pts, 42% from 3) looked slim and athletic as he made three treys and drove to the basket effectively. Josh Hart (10 Pts, 6 Reb) was seemingly everywhere on the court, scoring at will and skying for rebounds.
Off the bench, Phil Booth (7 Pts, 4 Ast) had a quiet but effective night, getting others involved when his shot wasn't going in. Darryl Reynolds (5 Pts, 9 Reb) looked good as well, specifically on back to back dunks early in the game. Mikal Bridges (8 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Blk) seemed to be everywhere offensively, including 3 offensive rebounds. Donte DiVincenzo (5 Pts, 5 Reb) also impressed, specifically with some truly acrobatic rebounds as he flew in from out of nowhere to secure the ball.
As with any first game of the season, there were some areas for improvement. The 'Cats shot under 30% from behind the arc in each half, a number that should be much higher given the number of open looks they were getting. They also finished 17-25 (68%) from the charity stripe, but that should improve as the season continues.
All in all, it was a great first win of the season. The Wildcats came out aggressive and didn't take their foot off the gas the entire night. Villanova will look to continue their success in the inaugural Gavitt Tip-Off Game against Nebraska at the Pavilion on Tuesday.
Villanova won the tip-off and wasted no time being aggressive to the hoop, forcing FDU into early fouls. Ochefu scored the first points of the season off two made free throws to give Nova the early lead. Unlike their exhibition game, the Wildcats were not going to let their opponents out-hustle them early on. Strong defense forced FDU into long contested shots as Nova controlled the game early.
The focus of the offense early on was clearly to get into the paint. Whether it be by dribble penetration of a pass to Ochefu, Villanova wanted to take advantage of its side and speed. This lead to an emphatic dunk by Ochefu to put the 'Cats up 6-0 still early in the game.
The focus on getting the ball down low started to free up shooters, as Jenkins was left wide open for a 3. But that seemed to spark FDU, as they scored their first basket of the game just before the 16 minute mark. Hart then turned the ball over on an ill advised pass, but made up for it by blocking a lay-up from behind in the ensuing fast-break. Villanova lead at the first TV-timeout 9-2 with 15:51 left in the 1st.
FDU tried to slow things down with a zone press, but Villanova was able to break it easily. A missed shot lead to an offensive rebound and another basket for Ochefu, who FDU clearly had no answer for. On the defensive end, Villanova was clearly too athletic and well disciplined for FDU to get any clean looks at the basket, leading to missed shots and turnovers.
Booth and Reynolds were the first players off the bench for Nova, replacing Jenkins and Ochefu. But having the big man out didn't stop the attack on the paint, as Arch was able to drive in for a pull up jumper. Nova lead 13-4 at the 13:23 mark when Bridges came into the game for the first time. This didn't effect the game plan at all as the defensive pressure still produced turnovers and Arch hit Reynolds with a great pass down low for a huge dunk. Reynolds followed that with a put back slam off a missed three, putting Nova up 17-6 at the 12:01 mark.
Everyone was attacking the lane, as Jenkins and Bridges put in back to back baskets off dribble drives, extending the Nova lead to 14. Bridges ran the point of the press when Hart was out of the game, but Villanova's D seemed interchangeable at every position. Patient but persistent defense continued to force FDU into difficult shots. On the offensive side, Nova had a clear advantage rebounding, grabbing three offensive boards on one possession! This lead to 3 free throws for Jenkins, who made them all, putting Nova up 24-10 with just over 10 minutes to play.
DiVincenzo checked in just before the 10 minute mark, as Jay showed he was going to get everyone some solid minutes in this game. Villanova's athleticism continued to give FDU fits, as they were up to 10 fouls before the 9 minute mark. Villanova had half as many. The 'Cats continued to look good on defense, forcing FDU to call timeout with a trap on the sideline with 8:53 to play in the first. The cats lead 28-12. That was followed by forcing a shot clock violation as the defense continued to suffocate the FDU ball handlers.
Ochefu threw down another dunk off a great pass from Brunson, followed by a double-dribble turnover by FDU. Villanova was in total control up 30-12 with 7:31 to play in the first. Just when you thought the cats might have forgotten they were allowed to shoot from 3, Booth drained an open 3-pointer from the top of the key. On the defensive end, FDU was forced into their 2nd air-ball of the night, and the student section let them hear it.
Brunson hit back to back jumpers from 2 and 3 to extend the lead to 26 with just under 6 minutes to play. Arcidiacono was playing with no fear, as he consistently stormed through the paint, creating scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. The fast-break game was on point as well, as Booth and Bridges combined for an easy lay-up off an FDU turnover. And talk about athletic rebounding! Hart and DiVincenzo were living above the rim on both ends of the court as they continually out-performed FDU on the boards.
While the Wildcats were shooting 50% from the floor at this point, they were shooting less than 30% from 3. That didn't seem to be an issue Friday though, as Nova was in total control of every other aspect of the game. At one point, however, with Jenkins, Reynolds, Bridges, DiVincenzo, and Booth on the floor, the team seemed to be settling for contested and hastened 3's. Jay quickly got Hart, Brunson, and Ochefu back into the game. Still, with the game looking like it would be easily in hand, the Wildcats got a little sloppy. There wasn't enough communication on the floor as players banged into each other on rebound attempts and weren't creating effective passing lanes. These were only minor issues though, sure to be addressed by Wright at half-time.
With just over a minute left in the half, Hart hit an open 3 off beautiful inside out passes by Arch and Jenkins. Jay called a timeout with 22 seconds left to set up a final play. Of an inbound to Brunson, the Freshman waited until 10 seconds left to make his move. But the play was broken and in trying to drive around the perimeter, Brunson was fouled, sending him to the line. He missed both shots, but hustled to get his own rebound and hit a jump shot as the buzzer sounded. Villanova went to the locker room up 50-22.
Villanova was back in the paint to start the second half as Hart hit a turn-around jumper from the baseline. Ochefu followed with a short hook off an interior pass from Arch. Brunson and Jenkins followed that with 3's as the Wildcats continued to pile it on 60-25 with 17:36 left to play.
Ochefu continued to be too much to handle in the paint, hitting a baby hook off a pass by Hart. He would follow that up with two blocks on the next possession. It was clear all night that FDU couldn't handle the big man. The rest of the team continued to be too athletic for FDU to keep up with, as their fouls again start to pile up. Villanova lead 65-33 at the 12:59 mark.
The Wildcat machine continued to grind out the second half with a mix of defensive looks (zone and man). On the offensive end, the cats continued to look to the paint first, but often kicked it out to open shooters in the corner. Brunson hit Arch with a great bounce pass on a fast break, who in turn hit an open three to put Villanova up 73-39 with just over 8 minutes left in the game. Two more quick inside buckets by the senior captains and a 3 by Kris Jenkins put Nova up 41, their biggest lead of the game. At the 6:56 mark with the game in hand, the casual main line fans started to head for the door.
But the excitement wasn't over for those who stayed. Bridges got the ball on a breakaway and was fouled while slamming the ball home, getting a huge response from the student section, still in full force. DiVincenzo wouldn't have a ton of rebounds on the night, but the ones he got continued to be impressive as he out-muscled and out-jumped the FDU players.
With 4:01 left in the game, Patrick Farrell was the first member of the bench mob to see the court in mop-up duty as Villanova was already up 86-46. The move suggests that should Nova's bigs get into foul trouble this season, Farrell could be the guy coach Jay Wright turns to deep on the bench. At the 2:34 mark, fellow senior and bench mob member Henry Lowe came into the game to and ovation from the crowd. He was followed shortly by Kevin Rafferty, who got equal praise from the student section.
But it wasn't until just under a minute left when the crowd errupted as Kevin Rafferty scored his first points of the season. The bench mob, along with Reynolds and DiVincenzo, closed out the game as Villanova secured its first victory of the season.Villanova started its 2015-16 campaign with an emphatic win over Fairleigh Dickinson at the Pavilion Friday night.
Notes and Quotes
Villanova's starting lineup in order announced: Jenkins, Brunson, Hart, Ochefu, Arcidiacono
- Halftime Stats: Brunson leads team in scoring with 9, Team FG% = 47.1%, Team 3FG% = 28.6%, Team FT% = 82.4%, Villanova leads in rebounds 26-16
- Several Villanova Basketball alums were in attendance tonight. The biggest crowd responses came for Assistant Coach Mike Nardi, Kerry Kittles, and Dwayne McClain
- Jay Wright on playing multiple guards "We don't refer to them as point guards, we just refer to them as guards. Villanova guards."
- Jay Wright on guards defending "They can guard any of the positions too, that's what's valuable. Ryan really helps us there. If we have a tough match up he can guard the bigger guy because he's more experienced and smarter"
- Ryan Arcidiacono on playing with other point guards "I love playing with Jalen and all the guys on our team. I've been here for four years now and I've played off the ball when Tony came in the game and last year when Phil came in the game. It's not anything new with me. I think it's just next man up."
- Jay Wright on Daniel Ochefu rebounding "I thought Daniel was awesome. It's not that easy when you're the biggest guy and you're playing against a quick team like that. It looks like it should be, but it's not. Rebounding isn't just size, it's quickness to the ball and they were smaller and quicker."
- Jay Wright on the Zone Defense "We want to use it, we really do. I say that every year, I just don't do it, but I think we can this year"
- Jalen Brunson on his first game "It felt amazing. But the best part about it was I got to go out there with my teammates and play Villanova Basketball for 40 minutes. That's the biggest thrill I had of the night."
- Jalen Brunson on his chemistry with Arcidiacono "It really starts off the court, and when we get on the court we trust each other."
- Ryan Arcidiacono on his chemistry with Brunson "The connection off the court started when he was a recruit. Honestly, we just bonded quickly off the court. When he came here we were roommates during the summer and we're road roommates now."
- Ryan Arcidiacono on guarding larger players "I take pride in that. I try to not to let any big guys touch the ball when I'm guarding them."
- Jalen Brunson on letting the game come to him "I still try to stay aggressive. It doesn't look like I'm shooting as much, but I try to stay aggressive and make the right play. I really feel like my teammates do a lot for me. So if I can get the ball, get them shots, get them going, I just want to open up the floor for everybody else."