It’s only fitting that it was President’s Day, as the Wildcats were cash money when it came to shooting the ball. After leaving a lot of points off the board in their first meeting, they made sure to not make the same mistakes again.
Villanova got off to a hot start, racing out to a 14-4 lead over the Seton Hall Pirates. The Pirates would fight their way back into the game with a 9-0 run, capped off by a Sterling Gibbs three pointer to make it 14-13. Villanova kept their poise and began to take over.
“We were aggressive tonight, we just had good spacing throughout the game,” said Ryan Arcidiacono. “We didn’t change anything, we were just executing well tonight.”
The Wildcats embarked on a 13-0 run that prompted Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard to call for a time out. It was clear that Villanova’s offense was hot, but their defense was stellar. Seton Hall was held to shooting 26.7% in the first half. Josh Hart supplied a vicious block on Angel Delgado’s shot, sending the ball flying into the other direction. The Pirates would recover the ball before going into a media time out.
“Everybody talks about them offensively, but defensively, the way they can take you out of your offense and disrupt you is as good as any team I’ve seen in a while,” said Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard.
After the short intermission, the Pirates looked to Delgado again. This time, he would flush it through for an easy dunk to end the run. Villanova’s scoring spree set the pace for the rest of the half.
The Wildcats kept the Pirates more than an arm’s length distance away. Darrun Hilliard sunk a three pointer to add the last few points of the first half. Hilliard, who had the game winning shot in Saturday’s Butler game, received a warm reception from the crowd for his heroics. He picked up right from where he left off, leading Villanova with 13 first half points going into the intermission. The senior guard also knocked down three pointers. The Wildcats had a 36-20 lead at the half.
The second began the same way the first half did, with a bucket by Darrun Hilliard. However, the beginning of the second half was marked by the excellent play on offense by Seton Hall. Isaiah Whitehead drained back-to-back three pointers. A few possessions later, Sterling Gibbs scored six points in less than a minute and a half to make it a ten point game. Villanova’s lead slowly evaporated down to just 46-36 with 13:44 remaining in the game.
Kris Jenkins answered back with a six point surge of his own. He drew a foul while attempting a three point shot. The sophomore made all three foul shots and then came back to sink a three pointer. Jenkins’ play got the Wildcats going back in the right direction. Villanova would later stretch their lead into the twenties. A pair of free throws for Dylan Ennis made it 61-40 with 8:24 left.
The game continued, only proving to be more of the same. Villanova was still making their shots, while Seton Hall struggled. There was obvious frustration felt by various players, their body language spoke for itself as they huddled up for time outs. The Wildcats’ lead was still ballooning, as the game seemed already decided. It didn’t appear that anything else interesting was going to happen. At this point in the season, blow out wins at home in the Pavilion became protocol for Villanova. They were able to shift into cruise control coming down the homestretch, or so we thought.
The Wildcats led 71-45 with just under five minutes remaining in the game. Sterling Gibbs was stripped of the basketball. Ryan Arcidiacono dove for the loose ball. During the scramble, Seton Hall’s Chier Ajou and Sterling Gibbs both lunged at the ball in pursuit. Amidst the struggle, Gibbs lifted his right arm and clubbed Arcidiacono in the face. It took the Pavilion crowd a few seconds to realize what had happened. Once they realized what transpired, they showered Gibbs with boos. Referees went to the monitors to review it and handed Gibbs a Flagrant-Two. Gibbs was ejected and escorted to the locker room.
“I didn’t see the play, so I can’t comment,” said Coach Willard. “We’ll review it and go from there.”
Ryan Arcidiacono stepped up to the free throw line, sinking both attempts. Those foul shots were Arcidiacono’s 1,001st and 1,002nd career points. The Pavilion crowd got to their feet to applaud the junior guard for his milestone achievement. He is only the 60th player in Villanova history to be a part of Club 1,000. It was smooth sailing from that point on. The Wildcats went on to win 80-54.
Everyone in Villanova’s starting lineup finished with ten points or more. Darrun Hilliard was the top scorer of the night with 18 points. He drained four baskets from beyond the arc. Dylan Ennis had 12 points and four assists. Daniel Ochefu chipped in a double-double performance. The junior center scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the winning effort. JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono each had 10 points.
For Seton Hall, Isaiah Whitehead finished a with a team-high 15 points. Sterling Gibbs had 12 points before being ejected. Freshman Angel Delgado added 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Wildcats improve to 24-2 overall, the best 26 game start in program history. They will resume action this Saturday, February 21, at 2:30 p.m. Villanova will travel to Milwaukee for a game against Marquette.
Sterling Gibbs apologized to Ryan Arcidiacono over Twitter after the game.
To which Arcidiacono replied with: