Villanova too strong for South Florida

Posted: January 11, 2013

TAMPA - Time and again Wednesday night, Villanova pushed the ball inside, and time and again the University of South Florida was overwhelmed.

When the final horn sounded, 'Nova big man Mouphtaou Yarou had collected 16 points and 14 rebounds, Daniel Ochefu had 12 points and eight rebounds, and the Wildcats had sealed a 61-53 win.

"You have to give it to ['Nova's] big men," South Florida coach Stan Heath said. "They were simply too strong and too powerful. In the beginning it was overwhelming. They really jumped on us early."

Villanova (11-4, 2-0 Big East) basically took command with a 19-12 lead with 8 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half. After that, USF never got within seven.

The Bulls (9-5, 0-2) cut the gap to 49-41 with 7:04 remaining, but Yarou promptly answered with a resounding dunk.

"I was really happy for [Yarou]," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "He's been getting better and better. You know he still hasn't played all that much basketball, but tonight I was really happy to see him play the way he did."

Wright added, "It was the best game we've played this year . . . We knew it was important for our forwards to step up early and they did and that was great to see."

Besides Yarou and Ochefu, JayVaughn Pinkston had another solid night, scoring 15 points in only 18 minutes of playing time.

On the defensive end, the Wildcats were also stout, holding South Florida to 36 percent shooting and to only 20 points in the first half. Heading into Wednesday, 'Nova ranked last in the Big East in scoring defense, allowing 67 points a game.

Perhaps more importantly, 'Nova extended its winning streak to seven games, ended its four-game losing to South Florida and improved to 2-0 in the Big East as it heads to Syracuse on Saturday for a noon tipoff.

"Last year [South Florida] beat us up a lot [beating the Wildcats three times]," Wright said. "Tonight we didn't let that happen. It was very encouraging."

Heath, on the other hand, was wondering where his team's fire was in the opening minutes.

"I don't know if we thought we'd just show up and [win] after last year," Heath said. "The first 7 minutes we just didn't show up the way we needed to. We did not have anywhere near the energy we needed."

In the end, Villanova won the rebounding battle, 42-32. "We have been a good rebounding team and we knew we needed that again tonight," Wright said. "We established [the rebounding edge] early, which was what we wanted."

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