In a game that was mentioned throughout Philadelphia as the "Holy War," whether approved or disliked by Villanova professors, it didn't disappoint. For the first half.
The Wildcats came into the game shooting poorly and looking worse when guarding the perimeter against hot shooting teams from deep. For the first half. And as they were only leading St. Joseph's by four points going into halftime, it was still possible that Villanova could have a meltdown, that the Hawks could muster a comeback. But then, the second half began and it all started clicking again.
Villanova outscored the Hawks 59-33 in the second half and trampled the Hawks 98-68 on the road in the Holy War at Hagan Arena. Last season senior James Bell led the Wildcats to a 65-61 decision with some clutch shooting. He didn't disappoint Saturday night.
Bell torched the Hawks for a double-double. He scored a career-high 25 points, 14 rebounds and two steals. JayVaughn Pinkston added a team-high 27 points plus eight rebounds and couldn't be guarded by the Hawks' frontcourt. Though the Wildcats remain undefeated at 9-0, they've achieved much more with the victory. Villanova is the best team in the city and it's not even close.
"In this rivalry, anything can happen," Head Coach Jay Wright stated. "I probably thought of every scenario, except this one. We just made every shot."
And Wright didn't mince words about Pinkston or his stellar play on the defensive side of the ball which turned into an emphatic block and a steal for the junior forward.
"That was the best defensive game of his life," Wright said.
The Wildcats 98 points totaled their season-high in scoring and their five turnovers the least they've coughed up the ball this season. Four players hit double-digit scoring. Darrun Hilliard continued his hot shooting from Wednesday night against Penn with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, six points doing from deep. Ryan Arcidiacono still looked cold from the arc, but connected on three long-range connections and finished with 11 points and four assists.
Though Arcidiacono is still making some bad decisions when it comes to shot selection, Wright made it clear that this team is one of the smartest he's ever coached.
"This is probably our best basketball IQ team," Wright said. "We're running the same things. It just looks a lot better."
The Hawks (4-4) were paced by Langston Galloway's 18 points and freshman swingman DeAndre Bembry's 17 points and two blocks. St. Joe's came out strong in the first half scoring a majority of their first 13 points from behind the arc and carving up Villanova's pressing defense. But the Wildcats improved their turnover problem on the other end. They finished the first set with just one cough up and the game with a season-low, five turnovers.
Yet though the 30-point thrashing, Hawks Head Coach Phil Martelli keeps his faith. He insisted that they are a better team than they showed. But at the end of the day, a double-digit loss is pretty unforgivable, even for the second best team in the city.
"I don't know how to describe it. It was an onslaught," Martelli said in the post game press conference Saturday night. "I know we're better than we played. We'll show that."
|Ryan Arcidiacono||C+||Played a little better from the point guard position, still inefficient offensively shooting 4-for-12 in 27 minutes. Defensively he helped keep Chris Wilson in check and forced some bad shots on Galloway, but still didn't close out on the perimeter. The progress is there, but Arch has still played poor.|
|James Bell||A-||A stellar performance for Bell. Double-Double numbers, a career-high in scoring, and some big shots down the stretch that put the game out of reach. Was active defensively with two steals and played great in rotation as far as help defense. Got nice timing on a block. Gets the minus for the three fouls, but otherwise a career night.|
|Daniel Ochefu||D+||Three rebounds in 21 minutes. Couldn't keep Kanacevic or Ronald Roberts Jr in check on the low post. Didn't stop Bembry much when he slashed and he fouled out. Starting to lose hope in the big man.|
|JayVaughn Pinkston||A||Arguably the best game he's played on defense in his life, paraphrasing Jay Wright. Only missed five shots on the way to a team-high 27 points. He was a bully in the post. Got around six AND-1 opportunities and made the most of them from the line (6-for-8). The most impressive was his work on the boards. Six of his eight rebounds were offensive snags. When he plays like this, Villanova is a team with the potential of a deep tournament run.|
|Darrun Hilliard||B||What I liked from Hilliard was his defensive pressure for most of the night. After Bembry got hot and Galloway got going, his defense from the wing and occasionally the off-guard spot were key when the Hawks were missing shots. Didn't stuff the stat sheet, but made the most out of all his opportunities on the way to a 14 point night. Also had two big blocks.|
|Dylan Ennis||C-||1-for-6 from the field in 17 minutes. Missed a lot of opportunities to score and wasn't very disruptive on the defensive end. Ennis was very "mehhhh" in this one.|
|Darryl Reynolds||B||He played. That's deserving of a B for Reynolds at this point in the season.|
|Josh Hart||B-||This game was another reminder of how good Hart can be down the line for the Wildcats. Hart hustled for 22 minutes on the floor, played above average defense on the perimeter and contributed six points and seven boards. He could have been more aggressive looking for opportunities to score.|
|Kris Jenkins||C-||He fouled out and I'm not too happy about that, but for the 10 mintues that he did play, he was active and helped crash the boards. But taking four threes with minimal time didn't pick him up any bonus points with me. There's a time where you step in and find your range, especially if your time is limited.|
|Tony Chennault||D+||Sort of another one of those "why are you playing" games for Chennault. In 12 minutes he missed every shot he took, some easy ones. His three assists are noticeable but in that small sample of work, it feels like any other guard could have done the same. More of a liability than an asset this game.|
|Nick McMahon||B||Again, a moral victory kind of game for a player like McMahon this season.|
|No. 14 Wildcats||A||The Wildcats have been known for big second half scoring spurts and didn't change the usual during this game. The most impressive stat from the victory over St. Joe's? 5 turnovers. Villanova has had problems turning the ball over this season, bad ones. This was a great example of how dominant they can be when they don't turn the ball over when forcing passes into the wrong spots or forcing offense. Ball-movement was great. Defense was superb. No complaints from the squad. Wildcats are averaging 26.5 point advantage per Big 5 win now.|
|Jay Wright||A-||Wright did a great job in the second half to make sure the Wildcats secured the lead and ran away with it. Using a series of backdoor cuts and crashing the offensive glass, they silenced Hagan Arena. Only problem I had with Wright was how many threes his team took in the first half and missed. Villanova missed 11 of 14 first half attempts. That can't happen again. There needs to be a point where you tell your team, no matter its tendencies, to step in and find easier shots. But when they started hitting in the second half and increased the defensive pressure, they looked unstoppable. Great game for Wright.|