Ennis sparks Villanova past USC

Villanova's Josh Hart blocks a shot by Southern Cal's Byron Wesley in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Wildcats will face Kansas on Friday.
Villanova's Josh Hart blocks a shot by Southern Cal's Byron Wesley in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Wildcats will face Kansas on Friday. (Bahamas Visual Services)
Posted: November 30, 2013

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas - As he prepared to inbound the ball with just more than seven minutes left in the game, Dylan Ennis delivered a message.

"Let's go," the guard shouted to his Villanova teammates. "Let's put them away."

It was a glimpse at the fire Villanova coach Jay Wright and his players say Ennis, a sophomore transfer from Rice whose debut was delayed because of a broken right hand, brings to the Wildcats.

Thursday it was on full display.

Ennis came off the bench and scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting as the Wildcats (5-0) finished off Southern California (4-2) with a 94-79 win in the opening game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament at Imperial Arena.

"Coach has been talking to me all week, telling me to relax," Ennis said after his first game as a Wildcat. "My coaching staff and players made it easy for me to ease into the game."

Villanova scored the first basket and never trailed. USC, led by mostly two players - Pe'Shon Howard and Byron Wesley combined for 38 points - cut the lead to one (27-26) with 6 minutes, 29 seconds to play in the first but was eventually overmatched by the Wildcats' well-rounded effort.

Ennis was one of five Wildcats in double figures. James Bell led the way with 17. Darrun Hilliard (16), Ryan Arcidiacono (14), and JayVaughn Pinkston (12) finished not far behind.

"We might let up here or there," Bell said. "We might go on a run. When we get refocused we get it back on the right track. If we don't let that happen, we will be a good team."

There will be less wiggle room Friday, when the Wildcats play No. 2 Kansas at 9:30 p.m. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Network.

Perhaps the most pressing issue is the shooting of Arcidiacono. The star point guard has now made just 5 of 24 from behind the arc this season.

"To get him making shots again is big for us," Wright said. "It makes all of us more comfortable. We're used to it."

The presence of Ennis will relieve some pressure. Especially if he continues to play like he did Thursday.

"This is what we expect from him," Bell said. "He's very energetic. He's a big voice out there. He's a leader in his own right. We feed off his energy, and he adds to our depth. It's just great to have him."

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