Villanova Wildcats Rejoice with Victorious Saturday

The Villanova Wildcats torched Big 5 rival the St. Joseph’s Hawks 74-46 at the pavilion on Saturday afternoon (December 6th). The game was the first part of a day-night doubleheader. The second game saw Villanova take on Liberty University in a second round football FCS playoff game at Villanova Stadium.

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Villanova (8-0, 2-0 Big 5) raced out to an 8-0 lead, which  grew to 17-2 and 31-11, in the so called “Holy War”, which truth be told, more resembled a minor neighborhood spat. The Wildcats never trailed, and never let up in winning their 8th consecutive Big 5 game. The Hawks (4-4, 1-1 Big 5) could not match the Wildcats intensity and execution.The first half ended with Villanova leading 44-24. In the second half, Villanova’s lead ballooned to 31 points (59-28 with 9;31 remaining.

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Villanova, once again, got great balance on the stat sheet with three players scoring in double figures – led by Josh Hart with 12 points, and Darrun Hilliard and Phil Booth each chipping in 11 points.  Hart also was the Wildcats top rebounder with 8. HIlliard, Dylan Ennis, and Ryan Arcidiacono each had 4 assists.

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After the game, Coach Jay Wright talked glowingly about his team’s defense which limited the Hawks to 30.5% shooting (18-59, including 1-10 from distance). Phil Martelli, St. Joe’s coach, expressed his admiration for the way Villanova played. Martelli said, “What they do has been so well drilled, its a pleasure to watch”. He then went on to praise the Wildcats for their unselfishness.

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Overall, Villanovs hit 26 of 58 of its field goal attempts, including 9 of 23 three-pointers. However, Villanova hit only 13 of 24 free throw attempts. Significantly, the Wildcats forced 21 turnovers which led to 24 points. The Hawks did out-rebound the Wildcats by a slim margin, 42-41. DeAndre’ Bembry was the Hawks leading scorer with 13 points. No one else scored in double figures for the visiting Hawks. Next up for Villanova is a match-up against the University of Illinois on Tuesday night, December 9, at Madison Square Garden in New York City as part of the Jimmy V Classic. The nationally televised game tips off at 7pm on ESPN. St. Joe’s returns to action on Tuesday when it hosts Loyola (MD).

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In the nightcap of a rare basketball / football doubleheader, the 5th ranked Villanova Wildcats overcame an eight-point fourth quarter deficit to the Flames of Liberty University in a second round match-up in the NCAA FCS playoffs to win by a score of 29-22 at Villanova Stadium. In dramatic fashion, Villanova drove 84 yards in 18 plays, all rushes, to break a 22-22 deadlock, with John Robertson running it in from the 1-yard line with 1:12 remaining on the clock, rewarding fans who had gutted it out for four quarters in the cold, rainy conditions. Earlier in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats tied the Flames on an 70 yard touchdown pass from Robertson to Kevin Gulyas, and a successful two-point conversion on a run by Robertson, the 2014 CAA Offensive Player of the Year.

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The 20th ranked Liberty Flames started the game on fire. Alpha Jalloh returned the opening kickoff 72 yards to the Villanova 27 yard line. Five plays later, Liberty scored on a 1-yard run by Josh Woodrum. Liberty tacked on a 50 yard field goal by John Lunford to take a 10-0 lead in the opening quarter. In the second quarter, the Flames scored again after recovering a Villanova fumble. Liberty drove to the Villanova 5 yard line but were limited to 23 yard field goal by Lunsford. Villanova retaliated by scoring on its next drive on a Robertson 3 yard run. The key play on the drive was an 87 yard pass from Robertson to Gulyas.

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Villanova took the lead when T.J. White recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Liberty 16 yard line. Austin Medley ran it in from the one yard line and Chris Gough converted the extra point to make it 14-13. The lead did not hold up for very long as Nick Newman picked up a Robertson fumble, which looked an awful lot like an incomplete pass, and rumbled 58 yards for the touchdown. Liberty’s try for a 2-point conversion failed, leaving the Flames ahead 19-14 at the half.

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In the 3rd quarter, Liberty again took advantage of a Villanova miscue to add a Lunsford field goal to expand the lead to 22-14. In the fourth quarter, as he has done so often this season, Robertson rallied the Wildcats to overtake the Flames. The defense also rose to the occasion by  holding Liberty scoreless in the fourth quarter.

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Villanova out-gained Liberty by a wide margin of 447-246 yards. Both Robertson, 18 rushes for 100 yards (2 TDs), and Kevin Monangai  (20 rushes for 102 yards ) ran for over a hundred yards.  Austin Medley added 32 yards on 7 carries and a score. Poppy Livers was the Wildcats leading receiver with 4 receptions. Gulyas had 2 receptions for a total of 157 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the ball for Villanova, Reggie Paris led the charge with 7 tackles. Linebackers Joey Harmon, Ed Shockley, Don Cherry, and Austin Calitro each had 6 tackles. Linebacker T.J. White contributed a fumble recovery and Safety Joe Sarnese nabbed an interception. Overall, the Wildcats’ defense held the Flames to 64 net yards rushing. In contrast, the Wildcats gained a net of 230 yards rushing. Robertson threw for 217 yards as he completed 8 of 19 passes. Woodrum completed 16 of 33 for 182 yards. D.J. Abnar ran for 54 yards on 21 carries. Darrin Peterson grabbed 5 passes for 103 yards.

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With the win, Villanova, now 11-2, advances to the third round of the FCS playoffs to take on the 19th ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats, coached by K.C. Keeler, who previously coached the Delaware Blue Hens. The game will be at Villanova Stadium next Saturday December 13th at 1pm. Liberty, of the Big South Conference, coached by Turner Gill, finished its season with a record of 9-5.

[Photo credit: D. Jacob Miller Photography]

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