The Wildcats lock down their fourth win of the season with a 75-56 victory over the Akron Zips. Junior Josh Hart led the way for the ‘Cats with a career-high 27 points and nine rebounds.
Although Villanova trailed the Zips for most of the first half, Hart’s outstanding performance at both ends of the court was pivotal in keeping the ‘Cats in the game. Villanova knew that Akron’s big men could pose a problem for them, and they did during the first half. However, Hart seized every opportunity to be aggressive offensively, even forcing a turnover early on that he easily converted into two points, electrifying the crowd and adding a spark to a trailing Villanova team.
Hart’s offensive game was on fire tonight. At the perimeter or in the paint, he got it done. The ball seemed to always plop through the basket whenever he shot it.
“Josh hit three’s, pulled them out, and when they came out at him, he took them to the lane and got to the rim,” said Coach Jay Wright on Hart’s offensive strategy. “It’s hard to do that against teams with length, but he’s the best on our team at that.”
He proved to be far from one-dimensional. Last season he established himself as a perimeter, three-point threat. However, Hart did more than just put up threes tonight, he proved to be a force to be reckoned within the paint. He showed off a balance of quickness, power, and strength by charging past the Akron forwards and finishing through contact to put up points.
“Josh has the size and the length to get to the rim,” said Coach Wright, pointing out Hart’s ability to match up to the Zips’ big men.
Hart excelled at the other end of the court as well. Along with his nine rebounds, Hart forced two steals that the ‘Cats converted into points, adding to their big lead.
While Hart was excellent on the floor, it was far from a one man show. Ryan Arcidiacono finished with 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He showcased his leadership tonight by making big plays when the ‘Cats needed it the most, helping them climb back into the game. He help set up Hart on most of his scoring plays.
“He’s playing the best offensively that he has since he’s been here,” said Coach Wright on Arcidiacono. “His efficiency is off the charts.”
Mikal Bridges also had a strong showing off the bench, posting seven points and three assists. Right after hitting a three, Bridges’ two free throws tied the game up in the first half. He also played a part in Nova’s 12-2 run entering the second half, helping them take clear control of the game.
Bridges also played well defensively, making four rebounds and three steals.
“When Mikal Bridges comes off the bench, it takes us to another level defensively,” said Coach Wright of the redshirt freshman. “He did that again tonight.”
At the end of the day, Villanova forced Akron to turnover the ball 16 times, and converted them into 17 additional points. The Wildcats also outrebounded the Zips 44-38.
It didn’t help the Zips that the Wildcats were able to outperform them on the free throw line. The ‘Cats were consistently aggressive in the paint and forcing fouls. They shot 12-of-16 (75%) from the free throw line, with Akron only shooting 3-of-10 (30%).
The Zips were paced by Antino Jackson, who had the hot hand early on. Jackson pulled up with defenders in his face and was able to knock them down. However, he failed to find the same success later in the game, losing his rhythm. He led Akron with 13 points.
“It really helped us that Jackson’s had three fouls during the first half,” said Arcidiacono.
The Wildcats’ next game will be against the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday, November 26th at 4:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.