In the spirit of Christmas, the Villanova Wildcats gave themselves (and their fans) a present on Saturday afternoon, December 21st, at the Pavilion: their best start to open a season in over 50 years. Villanova rolled to their eleventh straight win of the season by cruising past the Rider Broncs, 88-67. The 1942-43 Villanova team won its first 11 games; the 1961-62 squad won their first twelve to open the season; and the 1937-38 team won its first thirteen games to begin the season.
Villanova never trailed Rider after James Bell hit a three to put the Wildcats in front 3-2. The Wildcats methodically went about their business on both ends of the court and steadily built a lead in the first half. The Wildcats went up 25-12 on a bucket by Freshman Josh Hart at the 8:05 mark. Rider then went on a run to cut Villanova’s lead to five points, 27-22 with 4:41 left in the half. In response, the Wildcats outscored the Broncs 16-7 to close out the half and headed into the locker room up by a score of 43-29. Most notably, Villanova totally controlled the boards 22-9 in the first half.
The Wildcats started the second half on a 9-2 run to expand their lead to 52-31. Sparked by the very energetic Hart, Villanova continued to build the lead. When Hart finished an old-fashioned three, the lead had mushroomed to 67-41 with 9:29 remaining to play. Hart scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half.
Hart was joined in double figures by JayVaughn Pinkston with 14 points and Darrun Hilliard with 13 points. Hilliard was the Wildcats leading rebounder with 7. Daniel Ochefu grabbed 6 rebounds and Hart collected 5. Overall, Villanova out-rebounded Rider 37-29. Ryan Arcidiacono and Tony Chennault each contributed 3 assists. Villanova had 15 assists and committed 12 turnovers.
Anthony Myles was the Broncs, and the game’s high scorer with 22. Jimmie Taylor with 15 and, former Neumann-Goretti high school star, Daniel Stewart with 13, also scored in double figures. Myles and Stewart also were Rider’s top rebounders with 6 apiece.
The 11-0 Wildcats hit 50% of their field goal attempts (28 of 56). Villanova also clicked on 10 of 26 three-point shots (38.5%). Rider (5-5) hit 21-48 field goal attempts (43.8%), but only hit 5 of 15 triples attempted (33.3%). When Villanova emptied its bench at the end of the game, Henry Lowe hit a three-pointer, Nick McMahon got a steal and drove in for a lay-up, and Darryl Reynolds added a sweet block, all to the delight of the capacity crowd.
Next up for 8th ranked Villanova is the much anticipated game with the undefeated, 2nd ranked, former Big East foe, Syracuse at the Carrier Dome at 2pm on Saturday, December 28th. The game will be nationally televised on CBS. The teams split two meetings last season in the Orange’s final season as a member of the Big East.
In attendance at the Villanova-Rider game were many past Villanova players, including Tom Inglesby, Rory Sparrow, Alex Bradley, and former head coach and hall-of-famer, Rollie Massimino. Other notable former head coaches in the building included Gary Williams and Mike Dunleavy Sr.
[Photo credit: D. Jacob Miller Photography]
You can view 65+ additional photos in the gallery below (click thumbnails to enlarge):