Villanova coach Jay Wright thought his team shot poorly in the opening half Tuesday night against Boston University, but he didn't quite realize how badly until he looked at his box score in mid-sentence of his postgame interview.
"I just saw this," he said. "I was going to say it seemed like we missed our last 20 shots [of the half]. We missed our last 16. But I like that we went through that and came in to the halftime and nobody was frustrated."
Following a shooting drought that lasted nearly nine minutes, the Wildcats picked up their offense in the second half, clamped down on the Terriers at the defensive end, and rolled to a 68-43 victory at the Wells Fargo Center before a crowd of 8,313.
The Wildcats (6-4) did not hit another basket after Mouphtaou Yarou hit a driving shot with 8 minutes, 54 seconds to play in the first half, and managed just six points on free throws before the break. But thanks to their defense, they trailed by just three, 26-23.
"We talked about it," Wright said of halftime. "I told them we need a game like this. We need to go believe we're going to make our shots in the second half and our defense is going to pull us through. So it was good for us."
Villanova picked up its game at both ends against the Terriers (4-7), coached by former Wildcats assistant Joe Jones. The Wildcats connected on 56 percent of their shots in the final 20 minutes and limited BU to 23 percent.
"We were totally confident, totally into it," junior guard Maalik Wayns said of the mood at the half. "We knew we were going to start making shots. But we tried not to worry about making shots."
The defense limited Darryl Partin, a transfer from La Salle who went into the game averaging 22.7 points, to six on 2-of-15 shooting. Sophomore guard D.J. Irving, an Archbishop Carroll graduate and a Chester resident, led the Terriers with 11 points.
"Coming off our loss against Harvard, I knew we had to be more aggressive," Irving said. "But I think as the game was getting away from us we put our heads down, and that was a big part of our loss. We've got to keep getting better in practice."
On offense, Dominic Cheek paced a second-half surge over an eight-minute period that started with the game tied at 30-all and ended with Villanova holding a 53-35 advantage with 8:20 to play. Cheek drained a pair of three-balls, then dove inside for a layup and a follow-up basket.
"We're a young team and we're learning," said Cheek, a 6-foot-6 junior who had a team-high 14 points to go with seven rebounds. "After every game, we just watch film and break down the little things we need to work on. We keep working hard and working on our defense."
Life gets more difficult for the Wildcats on Saturday when they take on archrival St. Joseph's on Hawk Hill. Wright said he did not know what to expect playing for the first time at Hagan Arena, but that he "likes the direction this team is going.
"I can't predict where they're going to be, but I just like these guys," he said. "We're going to try to get good real fast. We're not going to be patient about this, but we're going to be smart about it."