Villanova overpowers Towson

Posted: November 19, 2013

TOWSON WAS 3-0 for the first time since 1972. The Tigers had the biggest turnaround in NCAA history last season (1-31 to 18-13). They had just beaten Temple on Thursday night. They got their first vote in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. They had double-double machine Jerrelle Benimon.

What they did not have was any depth at point guard. Or apparently any idea how to attack Villanova's 1-2-2 three-quarter court trap that has become a staple of the program under Jay Wright.

Towson left its new SECU Arena for the first time and ended up in the wrong place against the wrong team at the wrong time. Villanova never let Towson run its offense at the Pavilion in a game that started at 5 p.m. and was over by 5:15.

When you have 11 turnovers and seven field goal attempts in the first 8 minutes, you generally won't have much of a chance. When it's 12 FGA, 15 TO and nine points after 12 minutes, you are probably in deep trouble.

Villanova controlled the game with its dominating defense, led by as many as 39 points, forced 24 turnovers that seemed like 44 and won 78-44.

Towson (3-1) shot 30.9 percent and that was the good news. The Tigers were 2-for-17 from the arc and 8-for-19 from the free throw line, Benimon, who lit up Temple for a career-best 32 points, had been averaging 19.7 points and 13.7 rebounds. He had 11 and six and rarely saw the ball (eight shots) because the ball rarely got settled in the frontcourt.

"In their defense, we're all home, we're watching the Temple game and they looked great," Wright said. "We were pretty fired up to play against them . . . I think that helped us. And I think Daniel [Ochefu] took in the challenge of guarding Benimon."

Towson runs a lot of the halfcourt stuff Pittsburgh does. In fact, Towson coach Pat Skerry was on Jamie Dixon's staff when the Panthers ended 'Nova's 46-game on-campus winning streak in the final regular-season home game of the 2010-11 season. Towson never got a chance to run any of that stuff as 'Nova improved its on-campus record to 189-29 since the 1994-95 season.

"When they get into their halfcourt set, as we all saw in the Temple game, they're really good at that . . . " Wright said. "Then, you got to deal with [Benimon] and it's hard."

James Bell (20 points) is off to a terrific start to his senior season, averaging 18 points and seven rebounds. The Tigers were making little gurgling noises late in the first half when Bell came off a screen, squared up and nailed a wing three. Less than a minute later, he walked into a trail three and buried that too. His flying two-hand follow dunk in the second half reminded everyone of just how athletic Bell has always been.

"He's a Villanova senior," Wright said. "If you've been at this school for 4 years, whether I'm the coach, Steve Lappas, Coach Massimino, guys that are seniors in this program are ready to be leaders and great players . . . He's not worried about scoring at all and that's when you score."

Bell was a big-moments three-point maker last season. He is going to be an every-moment piece for the Wildcats in this first season of the new Big East.

"Everything is just on a higher level now," Bell said. "My understanding of the game is getting better."

And the coach told him at halftime he had no offensive rebounds. The follow dunk took care of that.

The pressure (27 points off turnovers to one for Towson) decided this game. At one point, Towson had 27 points and 23 turnovers. It is hard to win or even be competitive with those numbers.

"Darrun [Hilliard] played really well at the top of the zone in the press," Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono said. "We were faking and denying. We got them to pick up their dribble a couple of times and then we just denied the other man."

Towson was already lost against the press, but it did not help when point guard Jerome Hairston got two quick fouls and his third 11 minutes into the game.

This game was part of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. Villanova (3-0) has a home game Friday against Delaware before heading to the Bahamas for Thanksgiving weekend and the rest of the tournament where they could get Kansas in the semifinals. Towson's next game just happens to be at Kansas on Friday.

Comparing scores is often not a great exercise as styles affect results. Turned out Towson absolutely had the wrong style to bring to Villanova.

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