It was an incredible stretch of basketball for Villanova that lasted 4 minutes and 47 seconds in the first half. It included four three-pointers, three midrange jumpers and a fastbreak layup. During the span, the Wildcats hit eight of 10 from the floor, with seven assists.
It was an awesome offensive display.
And the defense was even better.
The 20-1 spurt turned an 18-16 deficit into a 36-19 lead, and from then on, Villanova cruisecontrolled toward a 70-59 win over La Salle. It is the 17th Big 5 win in the past 18 games for the Wildcats, who improved to 10-1 and finished a tough week that included a loss to sixth-ranked Texas on Tuesday and a hard-fought, three-point win over Saint Joseph's on Thursday.
The Explorers dropped to 4-4.
"It felt good," said 'Nova guard Corey Stokes of the huge run. "We got out on defense, we put pressure on them and forced a lot of turnovers. Coach told us to keep putting pressure on them and play great defense, and that's what we did."
They sure did. During the span, La Salle shot 1-for-11 and turned the ball over three times. Also impressive was that Villanova did all that damage with Dante Cunningham on the bench with two fouls.
"Reggie Redding and Shane Clark off the bench really gave us energy," said Villanova coach Jay Wright. "Shane was all over the glass and Reggie was running all over the place. And we were resting two starters [including Antonio Pena]."
The defense is nothing new for the Wildcats this season. They are allowing less than 60 points a game and holding teams below 40 percent from the floor. Last night was more of the same, as La Salle went 21-for-56 (37.5 percent) from the floor, and also turned the ball over 15 times.
"We lost to a very good veteran basketball team," said La Salle coach John Giannini. "We're very disappointed because we had a great opportunity and I think we have the experience and the talent to win games against great teams like Villanova.
"The difference was our inability to pass the ball. I told our bench to look at how Villanova executed and how they pass the ball. They got great shots. They shot 54 percent in the second half because of their ability to pass the ball. Our shooting percentage isn't an inability to make shots, it's because we are not a good passing team."
Granted, but Villanova certainly had a lot to do with that. The Wildcats continually jumped into passing lanes and when they couldn't come up with a steal, forced La Salle to get the ball in places it didn't want to have it. It was a Big East defensive effort through and through. Tenacious, relentless and successful. And it was on full display, especially during those 4 minutes and 47 seconds.
After La Salle jumped to an 18-16 lead on a layup by Jerrell Williams, Pena started things with a 15-footer, which was followed by three-straight treys, one by Scottie Reynolds (13 points) and two by Stokes (game-high 18). After La Salle's Ruben Guillandeaux made one-of-two from the line, Clark hit a 15-footer and a layup, Redding then hit a jumper and Stokes finished it up with a three from the left wing.
There was really nothing Giannini or his team could do to stop it. It was that overwhelming.
As it has done all season, La Salle continued to fight, but it was too steep a hill to climb, especially after the lead grew to as much as 19 with 8:40 to go.
After such a tough 6-day, three game stretch, Villanova doesn't get back to action until Dec. 22 when it hosts Navy. It will be a rest that is much anticipated and needed.
"Physically we need the rest," said Reynolds. "With Shane and Dwayne [Anderson] battling through [injuries]. We know whenever we step on the floor it's going to be a tough game. There are excuses we can give, like we're tired or have injured bodies. But it doesn't matter."
Tired or not, 'Nova didn't show it. It protected the ball, yielding only eight turnovers, and was extremely aggressive on both sides of the floor.
The Wildcats did a great job of distributing the ball, collecting 20 assists on 29 baskets.
"We kind of gutted it out through these games this week," Wright said. "Shane's hurt [thumb], Dwayne wasn't great today. We're a tired club. But that's just like what the Big East season is. So we're gonna rest up, take a couple of days off."
Not so for Giannini and his crew, which got 16 points each from Kimmani Barrett and Rodney Green.
Expect many passing drills to be repeated before they host Rider on Wednesday.
"There's no shame in losing to an outstanding team, but our passing is abysmal," Giannini said. "We could be very good if we learn to pass the ball. Our players have to understand if they learn to pass the basketball then the team will score more points. Everyone will score more points."
True. Still, 'Nova had a lot to do with it. Even while it was scoring 20 points in a little under 5 minutes, the defense was just better. *