Throughout the first 13 games of the season, the Wildcats have both lived and died by the three. But for the second Big East conference matchup, a visit to Omaha to take on the Creighton Bluejays, Villanova made a concerted effort to attack the basket, scoring a season-high 44 points in the paint en route to a 85-71 road victory.
The dynamic duo of Josh Hart and Daniel Ochefu bodied the smaller Creighton frontcourt throughout the game, shooting a combined 19-24 from the field and scoring 44 of the team's 85 points. The upperclassmen tandem shot such a high percentage by feasting on easy shots in the paint rather than settling for jump shots.
Ochefu started the game getting touches in the post and showing off his advanced offensive repertoire with strong finishes off cuts and mid-range jump shots. Ochefu finished with 19 points on 9-10 shooting, but also scored 8 of the team's first 10 points, shooting 7-7 from the field at the half.
During this opening run led by the senior captain, Villanova continued to improve upon the positive trends started in their blowout victory over Xavier. Most notably, the Wildcats made the extra pass to open teammates to open the game. The team finished with 20 assists, including a career-high 5 dimes from Kris Jenkins.
Hart was the primary beneficiary of this perimeter ball-movement from Villanova. By driving baseline, spinning in the lane, and finishing through contact, Hart recorded a team-high 25 points. Reminiscent of Darrun Hilliard's offensive talent, Hart found a way to create his own shot, while still staying within the confines of the team's system.
Villanova only shot 33% from three-point territory in the win. But it didn't matter. Instead, the Wildcats found another weapon; with the Bluejays expecting a three-point barrage, Jay Wright and his team fooled the opponent by defying the scouting report, getting inside the arc, and finishing at the rim.
The Wildcats were equally impressive on the defensive end. Heading into tonight's matchup, the Bluejays were averaging 86 points per game. But the stifling Villanova defense limited Greg McDermott's Jays to just 71 points. Creighton's leading scorer, Geoffrey Groselle was limited to only 4 points. Maurice Watson Jr, a Philadelphia product, also struggled from the field in the first half, but helped keep the game respectable in the second half with a total of a team-high 15 points.
Although the Bluejays' Cole Huff knocked down contested jump shots good for 11 first half points, the Wildcats shut down the Nevada transfer in the second half, limiting him to only 2 second-half points.
The Wildcats are hitting their stride at just the right time; after losing two disappointing non-conference games, Wright's squad is finally reasserting their status as the Big East's premier program with a 2-0 start to conference play.