Entering today, there were only two undefeated teams in conference play – the Villanova Wildcats and the Seton Hall Pirates.
Both teams came in with identical records, 12-2 overall and 2-0 in Big East play.
After Wednesday night’s game, Villanova stands as the only undefeated team in conference play after beating Seton Hall 72-63.
“It was an old school Big East game,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Ugly to watch, ugly to coach in but you have to grid those out and find ways to win.”
By no means did the Pirates make it easy. They kept it close for most of the game and refused to go down quietly.
The parallels between the two teams started right from the get go, as both teams traded misses and made baskets to keep it closely contested.
Seton Hall’s 2-3 zone gave Villanova some trouble in the beginning, forcing seven turnovers. The Pirates also limited the Wildcats to shooting just 10-for-31 (32.3%) on the floor and an even worse 2-for-14 (14.3%) from three-point range in the first half.
Villanova took a 30-23 lead going into the break, with a poor shooting performance by the Wildcats allowing the Pirates to stay in it.
“We knew coming into the game that Seton Hall was going to bring it, just every single game that we have watched on tape they have brought a tough mentality,” Ryan Arcidiacono said.
The Wildcats came out of the half with a refined approach. A six-point run by Villanova to start the second half and it seemed like Seton Hall was going to be left on the back burner.
A free throw by Khadeen Carrington and a layup by Derrick Gordon put an end to the run. From there, the Pirates slowly started battling back into the game.
Later in the game, the Pirates’ Veer Singh drained a three-pointer to make it 42-40 in Villanova’s favor. It was the closest Seton Hall would get to tying the game.
“We let the offense take over us rather than getting stops and continuing what we do defensively,” Arcidiacono said.
Villanova eventually beared down and built its lead back up with two pairs of free throws from Kris Jenkins and Mikal Bridges.
Seton Hall would give Villanova another scare by cutting it down to three points after both teams were finished trading baskets.
Daniel Ochefu sparked a 7-0 run after a tip in and the streak was finished by a pair of Bridges’ free throws to make it 55-45 with 8:01 left in the game.
Villanova would maintain the lead from there, as it never dipped below nine points for the rest of the game.
The play of Ochefu and Josh Hart were important down the stretch. The duo combined for 12 of Villanova’s final 17 points. Their importance was not just limited to the closing minutes of the game, as they made their presence felt on both ends of the court.
Ochefu led the way with team-highs of 20 points and 18 rebounds. Six of Ochefu’s boards came off of the offensive glass.
He helped Villanova get a 47-38 advantage on the glass.
“I love these types of games and I know that our team loves them as well,” Ochefu said of the gritty nature in the post.
He wasn’t the only one to finish with a double-double, as Josh Hart contributed 15 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists.
Aside from Ochefu and Hart, Arcidiacono and Kris Jenkins finished with 11 points each.
For Seton Hall, Isaiah Whitehead had a team-high 20 points and a pair of assists. Carrington added 14 points and four rebounds.
Villanova improves to 13-2 overall. The Wildcats will hit the road for their next game this Sunday at Butler. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.