After a power outage that almost caused tonight's game to be cancelled, the Villanova Wildcats had to overcome yet another slow start against the Seton Hall Pirates.
Once again though, the Cats were able to overcome a less-than-stellar performance in the opening sequence, as they easily bypassed the Pirates 70-53. With the victory, Villanova improves to 21-2 and 9-1 in BIG EAST play, while The Hall falls to 13-10 and 4-6 in conference.
The win also marked Jay Wright's 400th victory as a college head coach. He's the third Villanova head coach to reach 400 career wins and the first since 2013 College Basketball Hall Of Fame Inductee Rollie Massiino.
As with the past two contests against Temple and Xavier, Villanova could not hit the broad side of a barn out of the gates. The Wildcats looked to be stuck outside in the 29-degree weather, starting out shooting a frigid 5-15 from the field in the first 13:06. Luckily for Villanova, the team shot 83.3 percent on six attempts in that period from the free throw line, limiting Seton Hall's lead to 18-15.
The Cats then went on the usual run that they are capable of. Villanova outpaced Seton Hall 19-8 to end the half, taking a 34-26 lead. During that late run, Nova shot a blistering 72.7 percent (8-11 FG) from the field to help push them over the Pirates.
Once the second half started, the Cats never looked back. Villanova keep the offensive momentum going into the second half to pull away from Seton Hall from the minute that the half began.
The story again for the Wildcats was the unselfishness on the offensive side of the ball. Villanova recorded 19 assists as a team, compared to only 10 turnovers, which lead to a 50.0 percent shooting performance.
Jay Wright's club also played air-tight defense once the team got into the flow of the game. The Wildcats played a tight man-to-man defense that wore down and flustered the Pirates, who went on to turn the ball over 14 times.
The star of the game for Villanova was sophomore center Daniel Ochefu. Ochefu looked like he transported back to his high school days as a point guard, recording his first career double-double, notching 10 points and 10 rebounds. He also finished the game a mere four assists shy of a triple-double, setting a career high with six for the game.
Some other big time contributors for Villanova included James Bell, who lead the Cats in scoring for the sixth straight game, finishing with 20 points, shooting 58.3 percent from the field on 12 FG attempts. JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard also reached double figures with 19 and 10 points respectively.
This game marks the third consecutive contest where Bell, Pinkston, and Hillaird all finished in double figures .
Sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono quietly did a great job managing the game at the point guard position tonight. Arcidiacono scored only six points on 22.2 percent shooting (2-9 FG), but dished out six assists without turning the ball over.
Seton Hall, on the other hand, was held under 60 points for the second time in the past three games, and the team's NCAA Tournament hopes took a big hit with this blowout loss.
Sterling Gibbs led all Pirate scorers with 16 points, his 13th game of the last 15 where he has scored at least 10 points. Gene Teague also reached double figures with 10 points of his own.
Senior Fuquan Edwin, who did not play in the first matchup against Villanova, started off on fire from the field. But, Edwin would soon see his play drop dramatically. Edwin scored eight points in the first 5:11 of the game, but was held without a point the remainder of the contest.
After a third-straight double-digit victory, Villanova will get five days of rest before traveling to Chicago to take on DePaul next Wednesday. Seton Hall, on the other hand, will attempt to resuscitate whatever is left of its NCAA Tournament hopes at home against Marquette on Tuesday.