The best of the best in college basketball know how to take care of business and get out of games with wins. No. 8 Villanova did just that inside the Prudential Center on Wednesday night. The Wildcats set the tone, weathered any storm that came from Seton Hall, and finished off what was an 83-67 victory over the Pirates.
Head coach Jay Wright has made this a quick-paced, pressuring team, and while the Wildcats can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc, there is concern that this team doesn’t have enough to win without the three-ball. While it is understandable to see that those questions could be out there, this team showed why those doubts are not to be worried about right now. An offense that averages 81 points per game just doesn’t launch from beyond the arc game in and game out. Villanova is a well-oiled machine because of its ball movement, tallying 14 team assists, which was actually short of its normal average of just over 16.
The ‘Cats just simply had more talent and depth playing a banged-up Pirates squad. Four were in double-figures, as junior Darrun Hilliard shot 6-for-10 from the field with four triples and 19 points. Junior Jayvaughn Pinkston scored 17 points and reached the 1,000-career point mark in the process of doing so. Shooting a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line, Pinkston also shot 5-for-10 from the field and showed why he has been the most consistent scorer for the Wildcats this season. Sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono hit on three first-half triples and totaled 14 points as the threesome of Hilliard, Pinkston, and "Arch" racked up 50 points combined. As if that wasn’t enough, freshman Josh Hart did what he’s been doing all season. The freshman once against made his presence felt, scoring 11 points to add to the arsenal. Shooting 19-for-22 at the charity stripe collectively, Villanova just did not miss much. Every time Seton Hall began to show some life of a run, the ‘Cats answered. That’s what it takes to be ranked in the country. But the fact that Villanova has gone 14-1 in the Big East is what makes them the frontrunner in the conference and #8 in the nation.
As for Seton Hall, the revolving door of injury news continued its furious ride. Just over an hour away from tip-off time, Jon Rothstein of CBS released that Seton Hall senior guard Fuquan Edwin would be out due to a lingering knee injury. Senior centers Gene Teague and Aaron Geramipoor were also held out, with a concussion and an ankle injury, respectively. As much as Wednesday brought another tough loss for the Pirates, Kevin Willard’s team did not just lie down. The latest name to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for the Pirates, Brian Oliver, scored 20 points. The senior forward went 6-for-11 from beyond the arc. Redshirt sophomore Sterling Gibbs did just about everything, totaling 13 points, a career-high eight assists, six boards, and three steals. Junior forward Patrik Auda also broke out with 13 points while fellow classmate and forward Stephane Manga had nine points off the bench for the Hall. Besides that, the Hall lacked enough scoring to hang with ‘Nova as Willard’s squad compiled 16 turnovers. That just simply can’t happen if one wants to be in it with the eighth-ranked team in the nation. The Wildcats’ bench outscored the Pirates by a count of 22-12. It was also Wright’s constant pressure that kept making the Hall work all that much more for shots.
With the Pirates missing two of their three top talents in Teague and Edwin, it was tough going in for SHU to really have a shot to pull of the upset. The offense looked stagnant throughout, but the fact is that there’s nothing Willard can do about injuries and it looks like this SHU team has seen about all that can go wrong in just two months of a season.
While there’s a lot to be unhappy about, the Pirates did not get blown out completely. It’s a process with this team, and it’s apparent that a squad that was only down five with 15 minutes in regulation and ten with just 10 minutes left is not one that is going to lose 15 conference games as it did last season. The Hall is back in action on Saturday at 2 p.m. to battle Marquette in the first of three road games. With Georgetown and St. John’s coming after that, it’s critical that SHU gets back to strength.
"Response" was the word of the night for Providence. Head coach Ed Cooley was at one extreme on Tuesday night and went to the other end of the spectrum less than 24 hours later. Tuesday night, Cooley and his family were at a hotel after a fire at his house that did damage to it. The Friars played for their coach on Wednesday, as John Thompson III’s Georgetown Hoyas never had a shot to rally. Seniors Kadeem Batts and Bryce Cotton combined for 41 points to power Providence past the Hoyas, 70-52. With 14 straight second-half points in the early going, the Friars led by nine with 14 minutes left to play. From there on out, every time the Hoyas tried to chip away, Providence responded. There’s that word again. On top of getting the victory, it comes after a rough 91-61 loss to Villanova. What a bounce-back night for Cooley and his squad, as a veteran Providence team showed why it was picked to finish in the top six of the conference in the preseason. The Friars now ready for a trip to Queens to battle St. John’s on Thursday, Dec. 16.