The Wildcats closed 2014 on a good note and opened Big East play with a solid first step.
It wasn’t easy at first. The Wildcats raced out to an 8-2 lead over Butler. While Villanova had the nice start, Butler struggled to make their shots. The Bulldogs started the game 1-for-10 on the floor. Butler’s shooting woes was in part because of Villanova’s defense, but also just some sheer bad luck. The ball refused to fall through the basket, and at times it danced on the rim to toy with the Bulldogs. However, they eventually settled in. After all, they didn’t upset North Carolina for nothing.
Back-to-back threes by Alex Barlow and Austin Etherington tied things up at eight. Ryan Arcidiacono would respond with a three pointer of his own. He would come back a few series later to sink another three, capping off an 8-0 run to give Villanova a 16-8 lead. Andrew Chrabascz sank a layup to end the dry spell and eventually Butler was able to pull within five of the Wildcats. Villanova began to heat up, but Butler stayed right on their tails. Whenever they appeared to be pulling away, the Bulldogs fought right back into it. The Wildcats held the lead for the whole half, but never had much breathing room to work with. Villanova’s defense was on point, but as was Butler’s. Both teams continued to trade runs. A pair of baskets by Chrabascz cut Villanova’s lead down to two with 34 seconds remaining. With the final possession of the half, Villanova pushed it inside to Daniel Ochefu. He finished with a layup in the post, giving the Wildcats a 36-32 lead going into the half.
Ochefu’s basket was just a small sample of the work that Villanova was able to do inside. He and JayVaughn Pinkston were a formidable one-two punch down low. Outside of Kris Jenkins and Ryan Arcidiacono, the Wildcats were not able to find much success from long range. It was vital that they got their post game going, and the two delivered, taking advantage of their size.
Darrun Hilliard was kept in check for the first half. He missed the previous game against N.J.I.T. due to injury and had zero points in the first half of this game. The senior came surging into the second half. He made the opening basket of the second half and went onto score the next six points for Villanova. Thanks to Hilliard, Villanova had their first double digit lead of the game. A pair of made free throws gave the Wildcats a 43-32 lead early in the second half. Like always, Butler started to chip away at Villanova’s lead. However, this time around, the Wildcats would pull away.
Kris Jenkins scored six straight points for Villanova, including one three pointer to extend Villanova’s lead back into double digits. From there, the Wildcats were able to keep on pushing forward. They set the pace of the game, maintaining their comfortable lead with the Pinkston-Ochefu tandem down low and by making free throws. 13 of Villanova’s 31 second half points came from the free throw line, despite only making 59.1% of their attempts. The Wildcats’ also struggled from long range. They shot 5-for-20 from beyond the arc, but were able to find other ways to score. Villanova coasted to the finish, holding their double digit lead until the final buzzer went off. The Wildcats won 67-55.
Ryan Arcidiacono led way with a game-high 15 points. The junior guard added five assists and a pair of steals. JayVaughn Pinkston finished with 13 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Kris Jenkins scored 11 points in 16 minutes of playtime. The sophomore was another reliable asset off the bench. Daniel Ochefu was one rebound shy of another double-double. He had 10 points, nine rebounds and a career-high five blocks in one game.
For Butler, Andrew Chrabascz and Alex Barlow finished with 12 points each. Barlow’s points came all off of three pointers. Leading scorer Kellen Dunham was kept in check for most of the game. He was held to 10 points off of a 4-for-10 shooting performance. Roosevelt Jones had eight points and nine rebounds, but was inefficient on the floor. Jones shot 4-for-15. Villanova’s defense did an excellent job of containing Dunham and Jones.
Villanova will head over to New Jersey this Saturday, December 3, to take on Seton Hall. The Pirates upset #15 St. John’s earlier today, so it should be an interesting game.
The Wildcats stay undefeated and improve to 13-0. The last time a Villanova team started 13-0 was back in the 1937-38 season.
“Anything we do to match ‘bests’ in this program means the world to us. We take great pride in this program,” said Jay Wright.
Happy New Year Nova Nation and Happy Birthday to Phil Booth!