It’s been rough sailing for Villanova this year. The Wildcats, and their fans, have become accustomed to Top 25 rankings, NCAA appearances, and 20+ wins over the past several seasons. Coming into their game with Seton Hall on Wednesday night at the Pavilion, Villanova sat at 8-10 (1-5 Big East).
Seton Hall, on the other hand, was sitting near the top of the Big East with a 15-3 record (4-2 Big East) coming into the contest.
Both teams were coming off a loss; Villanova’s coming at Cincinnati where not even 39 points and 13 rebounds from Maalik Wayns could overcome the eighteen turnovers the Wildcats committed (to just three for the Bearcats).
Coach Jay Wright featured an altered starting line-up yet again for Villanova, inserting James Bell along side Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns, Mouph Yarou, and JayVaughn Pinkston. Wright’s line-ups and substitutions have been confusing at best this season. Aside from Maurice Sutton, every other player has seen time in the starting line-up. After hardly playing for two games, Ach Yacoubou started and played serious minutes against Cinci. Last night, he never got into the game. Darrun Hilliard, who started earlier in the season, did not play against Cinci but got 16 minutes off the bench against the Pirates.
Villanova has struggled with balanced scoring but last night the winds of change blew through the Pavilion and fans got a peek at what this team is capable of.
JayVaughn Pinkston, who spent an entire year away from basketball, has been improving steadily throughout the season and had the game of his brief career last night. Scoring a career high 23 points (including 13 of 17 free-throws) and pulling down 11 rebounds (including 6 offensive boards) Pinkston set the tone for the Wildcats.
Yet again the Wildcats had twice as many turnovers (16) as their opponent (8), but they hustled for a +8 rebounding margin and committed only 15 fouls.
The Pirates committed 27 fouls which led to 41 free-throw attempts by Villanova (including two on an intentional foul by Brandon Mobley who shoved Pinkston to the floor in the second half). The Wildcats sank 34 of their attempts (82.9%).
After a few lead changes early in the first half, Villanova held an eight point advantage at half time.
Although Seton Hall cut into Villanova’s lead several times in the second half, Villanova answered repeatedly and held off the Pirates to win by a 84-76 margin.
The Wildcats were led in scoring by Wayns who dropped 25 points (14 of 15 from the charity stripe). Wayns also led the team in assists with 7. Bell made the most of his start, scoring 18 points and pulling down 6 boards. Bell was 50% from behind the arc, sinking 4 of 8 three-pointers. Cheek and Hilliard each contributed 8 points. Overall Villanova shot 43.1% from the field.
For Seton Hall, Fuquan Edwin led the charge with 14 points and 9 rebounds (both team highs). Jordan Theodore (13), Mobley (12), and Herb Pope (10), also scored in double figures. Pope also added 8 rebounds and Theodore had 8 assists. The Pirates finished with a 36.6% for the game.
Villanova will look to make it two straight wins as they travel to Madison Square Garden to take on St. John’s this Saturday (1pm).
[photo credit: Michael Green]