Villanova comes alive to rout NJIT
Villanova knew that its supposed mismatch against NJIT would be anything but a pre-Christmas basketball cakewalk. Can you say Michigan?
Villanova knew that its supposed mismatch against NJIT would be anything but a pre-Christmas basketball cakewalk.
Can you say Michigan?
NJIT made national news when it hit the road and defeated then-No. 17 Michigan, 72-70, on Dec. 6.
The Highlanders flirted with another upset of a nationally ranked foe Tuesday before Villanova finally regrouped.
Trailing by 48-41 early in the second half, Villanova went on a 20-3 run to assume control for good in a 92-67 win at the Pavilion.
The No. 7 Wildcats improved to 12-0, while NJIT, a Division I independent, fell to 5-8.
"The first half was a recipe for an upset and that is how they beat Michigan," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
Villanova jumped to a 9-2 lead, but NJIT kept its composure and settled in by torching the Wildcats from beyond the arc. NJIT led, 44-41, at halftime and made 8 of 13 three-point field goals.
Wright got a technical in the first half, one he said he deserved.
"I was frustrated in knowing our plan was not working and they were playing aggressive and it was not the ref's fault - it was mine, out of frustration."
Then the Highlanders scored the first two baskets of the second half before Villanova took over.
"The first half, we tried to press and trap like we always do and they were much quicker than us," Wright said.
In the second half the Wildcats played NJIT straight up, didn't gamble, and held the Highlanders to 2 for 10 from beyond the arc, many of the shots forced.
"They were playing our three-point shots and we got away from cutting to the rim," NJIT coach Jim Engles said.
Villanova placed six players in double figures. Junior guard Dylan Ennis scored 17 points while point guard Ryan Arcidiacono had 16 and 6-foot-11 junior Daniel Ochefu added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
"We had a sense of urgency we didn't have in the first half," Arcidiacono said. "We had a pep in our step defensively."
Sophomore guard Damon Lynn led four NJIT double-figure scorers with 13 points.
The Villanova inside game led by Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston (12 points, six rebounds) eventually wore the Highlanders down. Villanova was 32 for 44 from the foul line compared with 9 for 13 for the Highlanders.
The Wildcats played without leading scorer Darrun Hilliard (12.6 ppg.), who suffered a concussion Saturday in an 82-77 overtime win over Syracuse. Wright said he is hopeful that Hilliard can return Dec. 31, when the Wildcats resume action by hosting Butler.