Wildcats' rout gives Wright his 400th win

Posted: February 09, 2014

A MONTH AGO, Villanova beat Seton Hall by 16 in North Jersey.

So what made you think that last night's matchup at the Pavilion would be much different?

Well, maybe that was before the Wildcats went out and played the first 15 minutes more like they were the country's 206th-ranked team instead of No. 6. It happens. But at least in this case, only for so long. As this group often does, the Wildcats closed out the first half with a 13-1 run. Then they began the second half by scoring 12 of the first 18 points. And just like that, it turned into pretty much what you anticipated coming in, a comfortable 70-53 victory.

It was the 12th straight time the Pirates (13-10, 4-6 Big East) have lost in this building - the last win at Villanova was Feb. 26, 1994. And it was the 400th career win for Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose club improved to 21-2, 9-1 heading into a three-game road swing that starts on Wednesday at DePaul and includes a first-place rematch with Creighton, which of course won by 28 in South Philly on Jan. 20.

"It's very humbling," is how Wright, who got his first 122 wins at Hofstra, described the milestone. "I feel very fortunate to coach at Villanova. When you coach at Villanova, you get a lot of wins.

"I don't think about it. Some of it makes me feel old."

He is the longest-tenured coach in the new Big East. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The Wildcats got things done mostly because they played defense and they got the ball to their two inside pieces, JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu. Which seemed like a sound strategy, since Seton Hall was near the top in conference games at guarding the arc. They Wildcats shot 24 percent from three, but 67 from two. And that was way too much for the visitors.

Pinkston had 19, going 9-for-11 from the floor. Ochefu, whose development over the past month has made a noticeable difference, had 10 on 5-for-6 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds, all at the defensive end, and a career-best six assists. OK, he also had four turnovers. But three were early. The two-man game between those two was at times lethal. As Villanova was going from four down to up 14 in the span of about 8 minutes, they were responsible for 16 of their side's 21 points.

"We practice that every day," Ochefu said. "Step in and dunk it . . . I like to see my teammates score, make them happy. I could care less about [my points].

"It feels good. I just want to keep getting better, help the team. Scoring is just one part of the game. There are a lot of other things. I like to get my teammates involved."

He could absolutely become a factor as the Madness approaches. It just took him a while.

"We always knew he could pass the ball," Wright said. "But before, they weren't playing him. So he couldn't make those passes."

James Bell finished with 20, four above his team-high average. He had four of Villanova's five treys, on seven tries. Darrun Hilliard took only six shots to get his 10. But he, Bell and Dylan Ennis took turns stopping Fuquan Edwin, who scored eight of the Hall's first 10. He wouldn't score again. And he averages 14. He didn't play in the first game because of an injury.

Ryan Arcidiacono went 0-for-6 from deep, but had six assists and zero turnovers. Villanova only got five points from its bench, which rarely happens because of the depth. But having all those capable bodies to throw out there does eventually have an impact.

"It was a good grind-out win," Wright said. "They were going to take away our perimeter. So the only answer was for our forwards to make plays. They were awesome playing off of each other.

"Our starters didn't start out really well. But our bench brings us good energy. We know someone's going to get hot. And that can be contagious.

"[Earlier in the season] I wasn't sure if our defense was good enough to keep us in there when we weren't scoring. We're getting there. That kept us in it in the first half. And they had some good road wins [at Georgetown and Providence]."

The Wildcats have some good away wins of their own. Now they are going try to put a few more on the resume.

"We know it's out there," Wright said. "The only way you can approach it is, let's get the first one. And whatever happens, move on. DePaul has always been a tough place for us to play. That's the next challenge."

There figure to be plenty more. March is still 3 weeks away.

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