I apologize for the delay in publishing this article, finals week has been a bit hectic.
In what was another Big 5 matchup for Villanova, the Wildcats would avenge last season’s loss to the La Salle Explorers. The Explorers didn’t make it easy though, at least not for the first half. It was a back-and-forth game from the start as the lead changed hands seven times. One team would grab the lead and the other would catch right back up. For La Salle, forward Jerrell Wright came up big in the first half, scoring over half of the Explorers’ points. The junior had 18 of La Salle’s 34 points. He stepped it up while top scorers Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren combined for a meager five points in the first half. The two shot for a combined 2 for 10 and would remain relatively quiet for the rest of the game. Overall as a team, the Explorers didn’t shoot so well from long range. They only made one shot from beyond the arc out of seven attempts. As for the Wildcats, they didn’t do much better, shooting 3 for 16. Scoring duties were spread across the floor, but by the end of the first half Darrun Hilliard and Josh Hart both had 9 points. The Wildcats took a 38-34 lead into halftime. They struggled on defense to suppress the Explorers, . The press was not as effective against La Salle, whose guards relied on their athleticism and speed to get out of the press.
The second half was a different story, which has been the case for a few games this season. Villanova regrouped and retooled their strategy. Their defense was much improved from the first half, limiting the Explorers to only 18 points in the second half. La Salle shot only 6 for 21 (28.6%) in the second half, including 0 for 6 from long range. Hilliard continued to play well in the second half, finishing with 21 points and a pair of rebounds and assists. Villanova had a 15-5 run to kick off the second half. Villanova shot for 13 for 22 (59.6%) on the floor in the second half, much improved from the first half. With 1:35 remaining, the Bench Mob checked into the game.
The freshmen Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart played well, being the only other players for the Wildcats to have scored in the double digits besides Hilliard. Jenkins shot a perfect 3 for 3, all from long range en route to an 11 point, 3 rebound, and 2 steal performance. Hart finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds. Dylan Ennis helped out in various ways, scoring 5 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and dishing 7 assists.
The Wildcats are 10-0, their best start to the season since the 2005-2006 season. Villanova will host Rider this Saturday, December 21, at 4 p.m. This will be the last game before the Wildcats hit the road and visit Syracuse.