It was a game of ups and downs. It was one-sided but it just didn’t feel that way for all 40 minutes of the game. The game opened up with three minutes of scoreless back-and-forth action. Many wanted to see how Villanova would play tonight after being ranked for the first time since March 2011. It didn’t look promising at first, but surely enough they began playing like a Top 25 team. Darrun Hilliard and James Bell exploded for an 11-0 run. Hilliard making a pair of threes and Bell made a three of his own, as well as a rim rattling alley-oop from Hilliard. This 11-0 run opened up the floodgates.
Just as Coach Jay Wright says, “Shoot ’em up, sleep in the streets.” The perimeter game and three ball was there in the first half for Villanova. It served as a catalyst for the big 31-9 start for the Wildcats. After sitting out over a year for his time, Dylan Ennis made his Pavilion debut tonight. He checked into the game with 13:13 remaining in the first half. Ennis scored his first point at home off of a free throw. As a result of the Flagrant 1 given to Julian Harrell, the Wildcats maintained possession and looked right back to Ennis who sunk a three pointer. He would finish the night with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. However, Penn would not go down quietly. With their leading scorer Tony Hicks in foul trouble early in the game, they had to look to other ways to carry the load; the sharpshooting of Miles Jackson-Cartwright. Jackson-Cartwright made four straight three-pointers to narrow the lead to ten points. One of his threes was an impressive shot under heavy pressure from Hilliard. The Wildcats would keep pushing forward, leading 46-28 at the half. Hilliard set a new career game high 4 three pointers tonight.
Villanova’s second half performance was a far cry from what they were able to accomplish offensively in the first half. Jay Wright was not happy and he had every right to be. The Wildcats were on a long scoring drought. In the meantime, the Quakers were slowly chipping away at the lead. Bricked shots and missed opportunities was the name of Nova’s game. It wasn’t until James Bell made a free throw to end the scoring drought with 12:31 remaining. The stretch of time where the Wildcats didn’t make a single basket was even longer. Villanova went 0 for 15 until finally, Darrun Hilliard made a layup and the first basket of the second half. The Wildcats went a little over 10 minutes without making a basket. The Quakers were able to narrow the lead to just nine before Villanova started making their shots. Villanova was able to extend the lead back to the twenties, effectively putting the game out of reach. The Wildcats would win 77-54.
Darrun Hilliard had a game high 19 points, with 4 rebounds and an assist on the side. James Bell added 14 points and 8 rebounds, along with a pair of blocks and steals. JayVaughn Pinkston had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Pinkston shot 11 for 14 from the free throw line. Tony Chennault got the start today over Daniel Ochefu. Ochefu was removed from the starting lineup due to academic issues. During the first half, Villanova shot 41.4% (12-29) from the floor, with 44.4% (8-18) from long range and 82.4% (14-17) from the line. These numbers took a nosedive in the second half. 26.1% (6-23) overall, only 18.2% (2-11) from beyond the arc and 72.3% (17-23) in free throws.
For Penn, top scorer Tony Hicks entered the game averaging 19 points a game, he was contained to only scoring one lone point. Miles Jackson-Cartwright was the top performer. He finished with 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. Big man Darien Nelson-Henry had 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. In his first start for the Quakers, Tony Bagtas had a good performance. The freshman had 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists.
Villanova will gear up for the “Holy War” against Big Five rival Saint Joseph’s Hawks. Gametime is this Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 6 p.m.