VILLANOVA, PA. 11/20/2015 – The #11/8 Villanova Wildcats improve to 3 – 0 on the season winning 86 – 51 over the East Tennessee State Buccaneers at the Pavilion in the NIT Season Tipoff. The Wildcats did so very similarly to the win against Nebraska where the Cats broke open a tight one with a 22 – 0 spurt.
In this one ETSU was competitive early and tied the score at 11 at the 15:09 mark. Villanova exploded going on a 25 – 0 run over the next 8:26 to move out to a commanding 35 – 11 lead with a combination of offense and defense. The Bucs missed 6 consecutive shots and turned the ball over 9 times in that stretch. Meanwhile the Wildcats had seven different players score in that span led by Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo. T.J. Cromer broke the run with a free throw with 6:38 to play in the first half. Kris Jenkins answered with a three-pointer before ETSU got their next field goal at the nearly nine minutes since their previous bucket.
“We’ve been playing well offensively,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “We’ve been taking care of the ball. We haven’t been shooting the ball great, but in this game we shot it better. I’m happy with the offense, but in defense and rebounding we’ve got to get better.”
Villanova went into the locker room ahead 49 – 27. The led would grow to as many as 47 points after intermission.
Balance was a key. On defense Villanova held ETSU to 32.2% shooting and forced 17 turnovers which led to a 29 – 12 edge in points off turnovers. In the second half the Bucs were scoreless for nearly four minutes in the second half. This came against an ETSU team which averages 105 points per game and had over 100 in each of their three previous games this season. Cromer was the only Bucs player in double figures posting 12 points. That got the Cats attention, but still, Wright sees room for improvement.
“Defense and rebounding, we have to get a lot better in the consistency of it,” Wright said. “We did the same thing against Nebraska. We’re not coming out focused on defense and rebounding. We got it going, but you’ve got to start games that way.”
Offensively, Villanova shot well (32 of 63, 50.8%) especially from beyond the arc where the Cats made 14 of 34 from distance. Jenkins led the way with 17 points and Phil Booth scored 16. Ochefu registered his 10th double-double of his career scoring 12 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. He has achieved that distinction in each game this season. Hart had 10 points and 7 rebounds. Ryan Arcidiacono scored 11 points and dished out a game-high 6 assists.
Jenkins is a starter this year, but sees his role no differently.
“It’s the same mindset to do whatever the team needs, play hard and focus on defense and rebounding,” said Jenkins.
Villanova continues NIT play on Sunday hosting Akron before moving to Brooklyn to meet Stanford on Thanksgiving Day.
Written By: Glenn Papazian