As Villanova fans strutted through the Pavilion for the last Wildcat home game of the semester for most students, they brought with them their holiday flair.
Underclassmen lined the stands in rose-colored hats with the round, snowy puffs on the end. Will D. Cat, Villanova' mascot, embraced students with his holiday gear on: a Santa Claus suit that kept the Wildcat warm in the brisk weather. And of course, they kept the atmosphere euphoric, chanting all forty minutes as the Wildcats dazzled between perimeter shots and crisp crossovers.
It was Christmas at the Pavilion and with it, the Wildcats brought their annual tidings. No. 10 Villanova crushed La Salle University 73 to 52 in front of the boisterous crowd of 6500 fans at the Pavilion on Sunday afternoon. Darrun Hilliard continued his streak of consistency with a game-high 21 points on 6-for-11 shooting and two rebounds.
But even with the squad's third straight Big 5 win, and tenth win since November, Jay Wright walked into the post-game interview with a grin and was shocked to find out the news.
"Did the Eagles win?" Wright asked. After told no, his first response was a cheerful one. "Wow man." he said while snickering.
But when it comes to wins, the undefeated streak and pedestal Villanova sits on at the top for the Big East, it's become baffling to many. So much so that even Wright can't make sense of it.
"I can't explain this streak," said Wright during the post-game press conference. "I think our guys look at La Salle as a team that went to the Sweet Sixteen last year and they just look at it as their next game. Thank God."
"Sometimes [streaks like these] work to our advantage."
With multiple players in foul trouble early in the game, the bench found a way to answer for Villanova. With 3:48 left to play Kris Jenkins let one loose from the corner with a hand at his brow. Bang. The freshman forward didn't miss a shot from deep on his way to 11 points and a perfect line from the field.
On the opposite end, La Salle struggled to score for the entire game. The Explorers went 1-for-12 from beyond the arc and shot an abysmal eight percent from deep and 37 percent from the field. Villanova's tough defense also made La Salle cough up the ball 17 times in the contest.
Jerrell Wright paced the Explorers with 20 points, 18 coming in the first half alone. The 6-foot-9 big man added seven rebounds to his afternoon. D.J. Peterson and Tyrone Garland combined for 14 points and 3-for-15 from the field. The Explorers shot 28.6 percent front the field in the second half.
La Salle Head Coach John Giannini, didn't mince words when it came to how well Villanova played. He said that that Villanova is ranked top-10 for a reason.
"Their skill level is extremely high. They don't hesitate to shoot threes and they knock them down," Coach We tried to run them off the perimeter and make them take mid range shots.They are a completely different team than they were eight months ago. They're skills and physical strength and quickness are at the highest level. That's why they've beaten top-25 teams and are undefeated."
Villanova outrebounded the Explorers 34 to 28 and had 18 points of off turnovers coming from a combination of Jay Wright's pressing defense and halfcourt trap. La Salle only hit six shots in the second half. When Hilliard was asked what kept him into a rhythm during the game, he only needed two words to sum up his performance.
- Josh Hart was aggressive in the first half, starting perfect from the field on his first two attempts. Missed some opportunities from the FT line.
- James Bell started off rough going an abysmal 1-for-5 from the field. But he has been performing well on defense. Air-balled a perimeter shot. Inefficient for most of the game. Not very unusual. Also had foul trouble.
- Jayvaughn Pinkston and Bell combined for 11 points and seven team fouls.
- Arch got going at the end of the second half, making six of his nine points in the last ten minutes on mid range jumpers.
- Ennis has been missing wide-open shots consistently in the first half. He played better in the second, finishing with five points and five rebounds and led the offense well in Arch's absence.
- Kris Jenkins was impressive for most of the game. Went into the middle of the second half perfect from the field and with two bombs from deep. Finished the game with 11 points.
- Ochefu might have played his best game all season. On his birthday, the big man collected 4 points, 7 boards and four assists.
- Fan favorite, Tony Chennault, played limited time against La Salle. 13 minutes and missed his only shot of the game.
- Villanova shot 59.1% from the field in the second half.