It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.
For those who didn’t get to catch the game and just look at the score individually, they would not realize that for the majority of the game, it was a lot closer than the score suggests. Villanova had a first half performance that left many spectators at the Pavilion confused. It was supposed to be a comfortable, easy win just like how it was the last time Lafayette came to play in 2010. Instead, the Lafayette Leopards scratched and clawed to make it a close game. Both teams traded blows like fighters in a ring as the game went back and forth in the first half. Villanova was unable to capitalize on open looks on the court, shooting for only 33.3%. The frustration of the players was reflected upon the restless crowd. That number felt too generous, as the Wildcats’ struggles from beyond the arc plagued them throughout the whole game. At the end of the first half, Villanova shot 3 for 18 (16.7%) from three-point range and finished the game 5 for 30 for three-point shots. The frustration even made its way to the free throw line. The free throw line was never an issue for Villanova. It was the difference-maker in the Georgetown game last year, and it had a similar effect in the first half of this game. The Wildcats could not capitalize on the free points, shooting 6 for 11 (54.5%) in the first half. Lafayette kept pressing forward keeping the game close, with Villanova leading 29-27 at the half. There some shining moments for Villanova during the first half, including a James Bell one handed alley-oop dunk from Darrun Hilliard. Bell scored Villanova’s first 13 points of the game and of the season, en route to a game and career high 24 point game. Big man Daniel Ochefu was an unsung hero of the game. Although he went scoreless in the first half, he put up seven rebounds and two blocks in the first half. He established himself as an imposing force in the paint by putting up a double digit rebounding performance once again and slowed down Lafayette’s efforts inside with his size. He would finish with 4 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Lafayette took the lead and extended it to six, their largest lead in the game with 16:33 remaining in the second half. Villanova came back and tied it up. James Bell hit a three with 7:33 to retake the lead and made it 50-47. The Pavilion was reenergized, the crowd was going wild, and everything was lively again. From the moment Villanova regained the lead, they never looked back. Villanova gained momentum and found their rhythm. They switched their offensive focus from a perimeter game to a gritty inside game. JayVaughn Pinkston tore it up offensively around the basket, making 14 of his 22 points in the second half. As a team, they were more efficient from the line in the second half; shooting 22 for 27. Bell sunk the last two free throws making it 75-59 before the final buzzer went off.
For Lafayette, Seth Hinrichs led the team in scoring with 15 points. He also had 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Joey Ptasinski contributed 13 points off the bench and was an offensive catalyst taking charge in the first half. Freshman Nick Lindner made his debut as starting point guard. Both coaches were impressed with his 8 point and 7 assists performance.
In their own words…
Jay Wright on Villanova’s Inside Game: “We shot 3-18 from three in the first half and in the second half we just got the ball inside. That was the difference and I thought JayVaughn was great. Not just scoring but always presenting himself and making himself available and making good decisions in there.”
Lafayette Head Coach Fran O’Hanlon: “I just thought we got worn down. In the second half, we couldn’t contain them as well and they hurt us on the boards. We were in foul trouble so we were trying to play a little offense and defense. At the end of the game they just started getting accustomed to our zone and started to figure it out and went at us and we put them on the foul line a lot too.”