Not the most relaxing of games, but a win nonetheless. The Villanova Wildcats use 8 steals and a 36-27 rebounding margin to overtake the Illinois Fighting Illini 73-59. They improve to 9-0 on the season.
Dylan Ennis lead all Wildcats scoring with 18 points on a very efficient 7-11 shooting (2-5 from three). Daniel Ochefuand Darrun Hilliard had 12 points each. Josh Hart overcame 3 fouls in the first half to finish with 10 points.
Illinois had a solid shooting effort on the night, going 43.1% from the floor. Malcolm Hill lead their scoring with 20 points on 8-15 shooting.
The start of the game saw much controversy as the referees made two ball changes in the first few minutes. Before the opening tip players complained that the ball was "too bouncy" and was immediately replaced with a fresh one. Minutes later during a timeout break, the ball was once again accused of being filled with too much air, and was again swapped out and approved by Ennis. Play resumed.
Both teams started out with some hot shooting with both FG% at least 60%. Villanova was 0-3 from 3 but was 10-18 overall. A Malcolm Hill layup gave IU a 9-8 lead, and Wright immediately called timeout. This sparked a Villanova 17-5 run, thanks to efforts by Hilliard, Phil Booth, Ryan Arcidiacono, and others. The balance is apparent here.
Illinois responded with their own run of 8-0 capped of with a Rayvonte Rice layup. Highly-touted senior Rayvonte Rice had only 10 points on the night on a poor 5-15 shooting effort. The Wildcats took a 33-27 lead into the second half.
Both Hart (3) and Kris Jenkins (2) had foul trouble in the first half. JVP lead `Nova scoring with 8 and 4 starters had at least 6 points. The Illini's Hill had 14.
Nnanna Egwu, Rice and Ahmad Starks helped tie the game at 38 with 16:42. Jay Wright called one of his well-timed timeouts. Villanova went on an 8-0 run from that point, capped off with a Daniel Ochefu dunk. The Wildcats lead 46-28.
Kendrick Nunn's three stopped the four-minute scoreless streak for IU. Aaron Crosby later made a three that tied the game at 50-50. For the next five minutes Illinois was only able to score 5 points thanks to many offensive fouls and missed shots. The `Cats scored 14 in this stretch with mostly work done by Ennis and Chef.
While the game was tied over halfway into the second half, Patrick Farrell, Kevin Rafferty and Henry Lowe all saw the court at the end. Darryl Reynolds played only 1 minute the whole game; at the final buzzer. He played 17 minutes on Saturday against Saint Josephs.
Both teams struggled with turnovers; `Nova had 16 compared to Illinois' 14. Both schools also hurt from three with VU hitting 4-12 and IU 5-17.
Head coach Jay Wright noted, "I think we can get better. I really do. But all the good teams will be better. So it's how much better we can get."
One thing that definitely improved was the team's free throws. The Wildcats 11-14 this evening, a major step in the right direction from Saturday's 13-21. The 3P% may have hurt (4-12) but overall the Wildcats shot above their season's average at 53.7%.
Villanova resumes Big 5 play this Sunday when they take on Temple at the Pavilion. The tip-off is slated for 2:00pm. It will air on Fox Sports 1.