VILLANOVA, PA. 1/16/2017 – Prior to the game the Villanova Wildcats recaptured the top spot in the national rankings. The real challenge was the game against the Seton Hall Pirates, the team that defeated the Wildcats in the Big East Tournament final last March. Whether it was celebration or revenge didn’t matter. What did matter was that #1 Villanova defeated Seton Hall 76 – 46. The Wildcats had five players score in double figures led by Kris Jenkins with 16 points.
“We were concerned about Seton Hall,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright about his reaction to being named the top-ranked team.
“A real good win for us against a really good Seton Hall team, it wasn’t their night. We know we will see them again. We were good tonight.”
Villanova came out strong, and everyone was involved. The Wildcats broke open the game early behind a 16 – 2 run taking a 25 – 7 lead with just over 8 minutes to go in the half. At that time all of Nova players in the game scored. Defensively, Seton Hall was limited to 27% shooting (8 – 30). The Pirates were able to stay in some proximity behind the three-point shooting of Desi Rodriguez, who leads the Big East in scoring in conference games. Rodriguez drained 3 of 6 from deep, 2 in the last two minutes to cut the halftime Villanova lead to 36 – 23.
“We focused at the start of the game,” Wright said. “Defensively we were tenacious.”
In the second half the Wildcats took total control behind a 15 – 2 run to spread the margin to 53 – 26 with 14:18 to play on a Donte DiVincenzo jumper, 2 of his 10 points and his third consecutive double-figures game. The run was started with a three-pointer by Jalen Brunson, who scored 13 points to put Nova in front 41 – 24. That was followed by a Josh Hart steal and layup, then he added another jumper. The lead would grow to as many as 36 points.
On defense Villanova completely locked down Seton Hall. Shooting 29.1% (16 – 55) and were 7 of 28 from distance. The Pirates turned the ball over 16 times which led to a 27 – 11 edge in points off turnovers for the Cats.
Rodriguez scored a team-high 15 points, the only double figures scorer for SHU. It was the lowest offensive output and shooting percentage for the Pirates this season, and had .708 points per possession.
“We set the tone on defense,” said senior Darryl Reynolds who pulled down 9 rebounds. “They are a great team, but we set the tone on how we need to play.”
Villanova had 1.206 ppp and that explains it.
Hart scored 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting. Brunson dished out 6 assists, a career-high he tied for the 8th time. Eric Paschall added 10 points for a Villanova team who made 47.4% (27 of 57) of their field goal tries.
“That’s a tough team to play one one day,” said Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard. “We’ve been on the road for the last two games, two losses, two tough battles. If you are not clicking on all cylinders this can happen, and we were not clicking on all cylinders.”
The Wildcats established a program record with 47 consecutive wins at The Pavilion. Next for Villanova (18 – 1, 6 – 1) is Providence on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. The Friars are the last team to beat the Wildcats at that venue. Another score to settle?
“We got motivated for every game,” Jenkins said. “This is our next one.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian