The Villanova Wildcats overcame a horrendous first-half shooting performance, and a six point deficit early in the second half, to subdue the Lehigh Mountain Hawks 77 -66 at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA on Friday night (November 14). The game was the regular season opener for both teams in the 2014-2015 season. The game was the first college basketball game ever played at the new PPL Center, which opened in September. This was the first time the Wildcats hosted a game at a site other than the Pavilion or the Wells Fargo Center since 2005-2006, when Villanova defeated Rider in Trenton, NJ.
The Mountain Hawks (of the Patriot League) were paced by Tim Kempton and Austin Price, and led a good portion of the first half. Lehigh hit 8 of its first 12 field goal attempts in the early goings. In contrast, The Wildcats were shooting mostly blanks in the first half, hitting on only 4 of their first 19 shots from the field (including a dismal 2 of 13 from three-point range). In particular, Darrun Hilliard, who played for Liberty High School in nearby Bethlehem, PA, had a rough shooting night. Hilliard hit 2 of 11 field goal attempts in the first half, missing all six of his attempts from distance. Nevertheless, the Wildcats went to the locker room at the intermission leading 32-30, mostly because of their hustling defensive effort.
At the start of the second half, Lehigh went on a 13-6 run, with Price doing most of the damage with his 3 buckets (including 2 triples), to regain the lead, 43-38 with 16:18 left to play.
Villanova then went on an 11-2 run to retake the lead 54-50 . The charge was highlighted by a Hilliard trey which knotted the score at 48 apiece. Following a Dylan Ennis three pointer, the Wildcats lead bulged to 62-53 with 7:33 remaining. Ennis finished the night as the Wildcats scoring leader with 19 points.
Lehigh cut the Wildcats margin to four, 62-58, with 4:18 remaining on the clock. However, the Wildcats were able to pull away, building their lead to 16 (76-60), with under a minute to play.
Villanova shot a more respectable 48.4% in the second half hitting on 15 of 31 field goal attempts. The Wildcats also hit 5 of 10 three-point shots in the second half. In addition to Ennis, Ryan Arcidiacono with 16 points, JayVaughn Pinkston with 11, and Hilliard with 10, scored in double figures for the Wildcats. Villanova out-rebounded Lehigh 40-33. Daniel Ochefu grabbed 9 rebounds, with Arcidiacono and Josh Hart each pulling down 7 boards. Ennis and Arcidiacono were the leaders in the assist category – both with 5. Villanova ended up with 16 assists against 9 turnovers.
For the Mountain Hawks, Kempton had a double-double, 15 points and 10 boards. Price was the game’s leading scorer with 24 points on 10 of 17 shooting (4 of 7 from long range). Lehigh’s assist leader was point guard Kahron Ross with 7.
Villanova returns to action on Monday night, November 17th at 7pm at the Pavilion when they entertain the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Lehigh next plays when it hosts Canisius on November 18.
[Photo credit: D. Jacob Miller Photography]
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You can check out an expanded photo gallery (from both games) below (click images to enlarge):