After a slow start, the Villanova Wildcats went on a 25-0 run and easily routed Eastern Tennessee State 86-51 on Friday Night at the Pavilion in the first of their NIT Season Tipp-off. While the offense was great, the real story of the game was Villanova's pressure defense that held the Buccaneers in check all game. Not only did the stifling defense keep ETSU scoreless for an 8 minute stretch, they forced them into 4 shot clock violations, 3 of which came in the first 12 minutes of the game. On the night the Wildcats held them to just 19 baskets and 18.2% shooting from behind the arc.
With 15 minutes remaining in the first half, the game was tied 11-11 and Head Coach Jay Wright needed to make a change. "I told the starters that we're just not starting the game the way we should. We needed to get some guys in to bring us some energy defensively, and they did. But that's what a team is." That team mentality and defensive energy sparked a 25-0 run that ETSU would never recover from. Defense fueled offense as the Wildcats scored 25 points off 13 turnovers in the first half.
It was another big night for senior co-captain Daniel Ochefu, who recorded his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 16 rebounds (7 offensive), adding 2 blocks and 3 assists. Ochefu was humble and humorous when asked about his stellar rebounding effort. "I think it was really like 11, because that one possession I should have kicked it out but I got a couple of offensive rebounds. But just making sure my guys know that I'm always there for them. I always tell them that I got them regardless, but it's definitely big for us grabbing as many boards as possible."
The other big contributor for Villanova was Kris Jenkins, who was also celebrating his birthday on Friday. Jenkins was able to give his teammates the gift of a 17 point performance, the most scored by any player in the game. Jenkins went 7 of 13 from the floor, hitting 33% of his shots from deep. He was especially effective driving the base line and scoring in the paint after drawing defenders out with shot fakes. Jenkins and the Wildcats are now 2-0 on his birthday, so Jay would be wise to circle November 20th for a game on next year's calendar
Five Cats ended the game in double figures. Phil Booth had 16, including the play of the night where his defender bit hard on a cross-over dribble, leaving him wide open to take and make a wide open shot just inside the arc. Ryan Arcidiacono scored all 11 of his points in the second half on just 5 shots, including going a perfect 3-3 from behind the arc. While he was limited to 7 minutes in the first half with foul trouble, he had a major impact defensivelywith the second most rebounds for the Wildcats (7). Josh Hart scored all of his 10 points in the first half, and was also perfect from behind the arc (2-2). Like Arcidiacono, he was also hindered by foul trouble.
As a team, the Wildcats had a much better shooting night than their previous two. They went 32 of 63 (50.8%) from the field and shot 14 of 34 (41.2%) from three. After the game Jay commented, "We have been taking care of the ball and even though we didn't shoot great in the last two games, this game we shot it better. We got good shots, so I'm pretty happy offensively."
Villanova will play its second NIT Season Tip-Off game against Akron at the Pavilion on Sunday.
ETST won the tip, but both sides came out slow on the offensive end to start the game. Ochefu was a presence early on, forcing driving opponents to adjust their shots resulting in several misses. But sloppy rebounding lead to an AND 1 opportunity for ETSU, as they took and early 3-0 lead.
Ochefu answered with one of the mid-range jumpers he had been working on, but the Bucs fired right back hitting a transition 3. The game early on appeared to be get the ball down low to Ochefu. While he wasn't getting a lot of shot opportunities, he did draw 2 fouls on his defenders in the first 2 minutes. Jay was quick with the subs as Booth and Bridges came in around the 18 minute mark.
Sloppy turnovers and loose perimeter defense continued to be a problem for the Wildcats, but they started to find their shot at around the 16 minute mark when Ochefu got a layup, followed by a Hart 3 and a finish by Bridges at the hoop off a turnover. With 15 minutes left in the first, the game was tied at 11.
On their first possession after the TV timeout, DiVincenzo hit a 3 from the corner as the shot clock hit 0, and nova followed it by forcing the ball out of bounds on the ensuing transition. Then Brunson hit a 3 to put Nova up 17-11 at the 13:37 mark.
The long bombs kept coming as Hart hit another 3 to make for the Wildcats. On defense, the Cats forced a shot clock violation and then a walk on back to back possesions. Then Brunson stole an errant pass and missed the contested lay-up, but DiVincenzo was there with the put back. In under 3 minutes, Nova had put together a 13-0 run and lead 24-11 with 12:06 left in the first.
Out of the timeout, Nova forced another shot clock violation as they continued to play an intense man defense. Brunson found a cutting Ochefu for an easy AND1. An odd moment in the game happened as a girl court side screamed during the FT, causing the ETSU players to jump early. Ochefu had air balled the 3 for a double violation, and the possession arrow gave Nova an extra possession.
Nova looked good over this middle stretch of the 1st quarter, with the one exception being inbound plays. Errant passes almost lead to turnovers on multiple occasions. For ETSU, they were struggling with fouls off the ball resulting in extra chances for the 'Cats.
Booth was fouled on an off balance 3 and made all 3 from the line. Continued pressure defense and a better rebounding effort from Villanova's guards kept them on top as they extended their run to 23-0, leading ETSU 34-11 with 8:29 left in the 1st.
The Cats weren't just winning with offense, their defense was the real star of the game, forcing 3 shot clock violations in the first 12 minutes. Ochefu continued to be a beast on the boards, reeling in seemingly every ETSU miss. Darryl Reynolds got the ball down low, but had it stripped and taken to the other end of the court, where ETSU finally got fouled and made a free throw to end the scoreless streak with just under 7 minutes to play. But the Bucs still couldn't catch a break, as fouls kept piling up for them. With 5:23 left in the first, Booth hit a 3 to put Villanova up 41-17.
On a potentially dangerous play, AJ Merriweather of ETSU got under Bridges who was mid-air, giving Villanova the double bonus for the rest of the half with just under 5 minutes to play. But the Cats started having some foul troubles of their own, as Darryl Reynolds picked up his second one possession later, giving the team a total of 8.
Bridges and Divincenzo both came very close to steals before ETSU had an errant pass sail into the backcourt, resulting in their 4th shot clock violation of the night. The Wildcat offense had cooled off a little bit, but the defense remained strong throughout the 1st half.
Ochefu came back into the game and scored his 10th point and added 3 quick rebounds, one offensive, and hit Bridges in the corner for an assist around the 3 minute mark. He's just been too much to handle down low this season. The wildcats lead 47-25 with 2:00 minutes left in the half.
DiVincenzo continued to show off his impressive athleticism getting big air for rebounds and tip-toing the baseline to grab a loose ball. Brunson also showed a quick step as he drove to the basket for a contested lay-up. Villanova took a 22 point lead to the locker-room at the half with a score of 49-27.
The Wildcats carried their strong play into the second half, getting multiple good looks on offense and staying stingy on defense. Jenkins hit a wide open three to start the scoring for the Cats, putting them up 52-27. Brunson then continued his excellence on transition with a jump step in the paint, resulting in an easy basket. Arcidiacono got his first points of the game, also on a nifty mood in the paint, as Villanova extended its lead.
Arch continued his efforts on the defensive end forcing a turnover. On the ensuing drive, Brunson again attacked the paint, resulting in a trip to the line where he hit both shots. His ability to get to the line will be key for Villanova this season. On the next possession, Brunson drove again, but this timed ditched to an open Ochefu for a HUGE dunk. With 15:15 to play in the game, Nova had extended its lead to 60-31.
ETST wasn't going to go away easily, as they continued to attack the paint. But Arcidiacono and Booth were able to provide an answers with a deep 3's. Ochefu continued to pull down rebounds, and had a double-double early in the 2nd. He also continued to make smart basketball plays, twice throwing loose balls against out-of-bounds ETST players to retain possession.
Booth continued another solid effort with an athletic drive and finish at the hoop, followed by a corner 3 to put him into double digits for the game. Not to be outdone, Kris Jenkins used a pump fake in the corner to give him an open lane for an easy lay-up. But easily the play of the night was a filthy cross-over dribble by Booth that sent his defender to the floor, leaving him open to take and drain a 3. This Sophomore isn't showing any signs of slumping.
The 3's kept falling as Arch drained from deep twice to put the 'Cats up by 44 with just over 8 minutes left in the game. Strong man defense and team rebounding kept ETSU at bay, and Jenkins kept the Three Party going. The Junior then hit a rainbow floater to put Villanova up 86-39 with 6:03 left in the game.
The younger Wildcats started to get the majority of the playing time with the game well in hand. Jay also used this opportunity to get in some more time working on the zone defense. As the Bench Mob made their way into the game, the student section roared every time they touched the ball. With the clock winding down, ETSU was able to get a few more buckets, but the game was never in question. Villanova was able to run out the clock and won with a final score of 86-51.
Notes and Quotes
- Ochefu looked good in warm-ups hitting what looked like 75% of his mid-range jump shots from all around the court.
- A LOT of experience on the court for East Tennessee State tonight as 13 of their 16 players are Juniors and Seniors
- Tim Delaney still on crutches, but all smiles as he gives words of encouragement to his teammates during warm ups
- Eric Paschall continues to give Jay a run for his money in the wardrobe department
- Starters for the Wildcats in order announced: Jenkins, Brunson, Hart, Ochefu, Arcidiacono
- The student section unfurled a banner in the first half that read "Jay, You're The Only Ten-I-See"
- Nova had 25 points off turnovers in the first half
- The Halftime show was "Mutts Gone Nut", and was possibly the greatest half-time show I've ever seen!
- The play of the night was a filthy cross-over dribble by Booth that sent his defender to the floor, leaving him with a wide open shot just inside the arc, which he made. This ended up being Sports Center's Top Play that evening!
- Minella's has a promotion this season where you get a discount if the Cats score 85+ points
- During the Alumni Roll Call, the biggest cheer came for JayVaughn Pinkston
- Jay Wright's initial thoughts, "We didn't start great, but we played pretty well after that. They're a talented team. If you don't play well against them they can get you, but I thought we played pretty well. We got sloppy at times, but good effort. We got to keep getting better."
- Jay Wright on where he thinks the team needs to improve, "Defensively and rebounding, we've got to get a lot better, we really do. The consistency of it. They started that game off with four offensive rebounds, we lost guys. ... We're not coming out focused defensively or rebounding. But then after they hurt us a couple time we get it going. You gotta get to the point where you start games that way."
- Jay Wright on the early substitutions, "Once we got it going, I thought we were pretty good defensively. A lot of it came from Phil Booth, came in gave us a spark defensively. Donte came off the bench. Our starters, we did not start well. But those guys came in, got us a spark, then when the starters came back in they were very good defensively."
- Jay Wright on turnovers, "We've been playing well offensively. We have. We haven't been turning the ball over. In this game, it got a little sloppy, so some of the turnovers I'm not really upset about."
- Jay Wright on extended starter minutes in the second half, "We wanted to play them for a while together because they got in foul trouble in the first half. Arch only played 7 minutes in the first half. And then we had the subs at the table for like 2 minutes and there were no stoppages, we couldn't get them in the game. I actually called a timeout to get them in. It was longer than I wanted to, but we definitely did want to get some sustained time with those guys playing together in a game situation. Because no matter how much you practice and no matter what the score is, it's just always different playing with a crowd and against an opponent.
- Jay Wright on if they have a goal for 3-pointers taken, "We don't really look at the numbers, but we definitely give them the green light. We have a lot of good shooters. If these guys are open from 3 we want them to shoot it. We've never put a goal on how many we want to get, or a limit. But if we have them, we want to take them."
- Jay Wright on team depth, "It's a different depth this year. It's an offensive depth this year, where last year I thought we had a defensive depth. Because JayVaugn Pinkston was so good defensively, and Darrun Hilliard was so good defensively, and Dylan was so good defensively, that we could mix in Kris, Josh, those guys could bring us offense. The good thing is, Donte and Mikal, and Darryl, they bring us defense. That's pretty cool, they've just got to get more experience."
- Daniel Ochefu on his performance the first 3 games, "I'm happy with the wins of course, and just like coach says we have to get better every day on our defense and rebounding. It's a challenge we're going to have all season, so we're definitely looking forward to taking on that challenge."
- Jay Wright on Ochefu's performance, "I'm happy with him. He's really rebounding and he's playing great defense."
- Kris Jenkins on being a starter this season, "It's just a different role but the same mindset. Just come in and do whatever the team needs. Just play hard, focus on defense and rebounding, everything else will follow."
- Kris Jenkins on team priorities on defense, "Defense is always our number one priority coming into a game. Defense and rebounding. So every opponent, the same thing. First is going to be defense, second is rebounding."
- Jay Wright on 3pointers off ball screens, "Arch hit a couple off ball screens. Daniel had great screens. Phil Booth got a couple off ball screens where Daniel ran out and got him wide open shots. A lot of them came from him doing a great job running out and setting screens."
- Kris Jenkins on rebounding, "We rebound as a team, so, it's just everybody has to step up."
- Kris Jenkins on big runs, "It starts with our defense. We get stops and then we get out in transition. We spread the floor. (Daniel) always sets great screens. He rotates to the basket, finishes around the basket. We have great play makers around him."