Bell scores 27 as 'Nova throttles Xavier

Villanova's Darrun Hilliard blocks a shot in the first half against Xavier. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)
Villanova's Darrun Hilliard blocks a shot in the first half against Xavier. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 05, 2014

Villanova coach Jay Wright usually asks a lot from senior guard James Bell, and it's much more than the scoring and hustle he displays on the basketball court.

Bell tied his career high with six three-point baskets and scored 27 points - 21 in the second half - to lift the sixth-ranked Wildcats to their 20th victory of the season, an 81-58 win Monday over Xavier in a Big East game in front of a hearty Pavilion crowd that braved the elements.

The 6-foot-6 Bell, who also chipped in with eight rebounds and three assists, is the only four-year senior in the program and the man whom Wright demands much from as a leader.

"James Bell is much more than his 27 points, eight rebounds. . . . I know that sounds kind of corny, but he is," the coach said.

"He has been through it all. He takes responsibility for everybody off the court. He takes responsibility for everybody on the court. Our guys know it. There are times I can just go at him. I don't have to go crazy on anybody else. I just go at him and he gets it done with the team. When you have a special team, you have special leaders like that. That's what he is."

Bell said the coaches have confidence in him as a leader.

"The players look at me as an older brother and I take that role," he said. "Everything's pretty much on me, good or bad. I think they respect me for it and it makes us a better team."

Bell and Darrun Hilliard, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, went on a run during which they combined for 19 consecutive Villanova points and got the Wildcats (20-2, 8-1 Big East) back in gear after a sluggish first half in which they led by just six.

Bell ended that run with a dunk, and guard Dylan Ennis followed with another dunk that gave the Wildcats a 51-36 lead with 11 minutes, 57 seconds to play. Villanova shot 60 percent from the floor in the second half and 49.2 percent for the game.

The Wildcats posted their ninth 20-win season in the last 10 seasons under Wright. Their only better start came in 2009-10 when they were 20-1. Villanova began 20-2 in 2005-06.

"That's great," Wright said. "We've got a good team, we do. We've just got to keep getting better. We're going to be playing a lot of good teams."

Semaj Christon scored 17 points to lead the Musketeers (15-7, 5-4), who shot 38 percent from the field and committed 16 turnovers, which led to 16 points for 'Nova.


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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