Villanova dodged a bullet tonight at the Pavilion to post a 71-63 win over Rutgers, move to 8-6 in Big East play and keep alive hope for a possible NCAA Tournament berth.
The Cats started quickly in the first half behind a couple of Ryan Arcidiacono three-balls and some nice play by Mouphtaou Yarou. Instead of continuing to build on the early lead, 'Nova went ice cold from both the field and the free-throw line - allowing the Scarlet Knights, who shot 50% from beyond the arc in the first half, to race to a ten point half-time lead.
At half-time, Coach Wright decided to up the tempo of the game and press in order to have any opportunity to gain enough possessions to turn the lead around. Not only did the Wildcat pressure lead to a number of Rutgers turnovers but the Cats started making three-pointers and went the entire second-half without turning the ball over. James Bell knocked down three critical three-pointers to lead the second-half scoring surge.
Balanced scoring from the starters
ZERO second-half turnovers
Second-half three-point shooting
Adjusted the defense to better handle Mack in the second-half
Not so goods:
Out-rebounded by Rutgers - allowed 16 O-boards!
The first-half scoring drought
FT shooting - in particular the 50% FT shooting in the first-half
Fist-half shooting - 30% from the floor, 20% from the arc and 50% from the line
Little bench scoring
Player Evals & Stats
34 Min, 3-7 FG, 3-7 3PFG, 5-7 FT, 0 Reb, 4 Asst, 0 TO, 1 Stl, 14 Pts
His scoring was important early but his ball-handling and decision-making were important over his entire 34 minutes. Played a great floor game. Helped ensure that the right players were getting the right looks down the stretch. Drew some key fouls.
33 Min, 5-7 FG, 2-3 3PFG, 2-4 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Asst, 1 TO, 3 Stl, 0 Blk, 14 Pts
Chipped in a clutch three-ball of his own but more importantly provided a defensive spark. While Bell and Arcidiacono were perhaps making more noise with their scoring - Hilliard's "quiet" 14 were a big part of the comeback.
35 Min, 4-9 FG, 0-1 3PFG, 6-8 FT, 5 Rebs, 3 Asst, 3 TO, 1 Blk, 0 Stl, 14 Pts
Continues to improve with his decision-making. Had a momentum shifting, dunk off a broken play in the second-half that really energized the Pavilion crowd. Converting his scoring opportunities more efficiently.
29 Min, 4-9 FG, 3-7 3PFG, 0-2 FT, 2 Rebs, 1 Asst, 1 TOs, 0 Blk, 0 Stl, 11 Pts
"Big Shot" Bell once again went off from beyond the arc to help 'Nova surge back in an important game. His foul difficulties continue to limit his minutes but his sense of when to turn it on is uncanny.
36 Min, 2-6 FG, 6-6 FT, 12 Rebs, 1 Asst, 1 TO, 2 Blk, 0 Stl, 10 Pts
Another double-double for Yarou. Strong on the boards and more "in the flow" of the offense than at most junctures in his career. Shot it well from the stripe and handled the ball securely when asked to on the perimeter.
19 Min, 0-3 FG, 0-1 3PFG, 6-8 FTs, 0 Rebs, 1 Stl, 1 Asst., 1 TOs, 6 Pts
Other than a couple of questionable decisions to drive the ball into difficult situation and/or poor shot attempts, Chennault did a decent job of helping to break pressure and relieving Arcidiacono of some of the primary ball-handler chores. Chennault made a key steal during the second-half run and knocked down some clutch free-throws - including the 2 that put the Cats back in the lead in the second-half.
10 Min, 1-1 FG, 0-0 3PFG, 0-1 FTs, 1 Reb, 0 Asst, 0 TO, 0 Blk, 0 Stl, 2 Pts
Scored on a one-handed jam off a nice post feed from Arcidiacono in the second-half. Joined the Cats brick parade from the FT line in the first-half. Didn't do a particularly good job on the defensive boards.
Made two great defensive plays in his short amount of PT. Forced a tie-up with quick hands and forced a turnover with quick feet.
2 Min, 0-1 FG, 0-1 3PFG
Air-balled a three.
Villanova plays the final Pavilion game of the season on Saturday at 6:00 PM against Marquette.
Catch me as one of Coach Wright's guests Tuesday night at 7PM on the "Talking Villanova Basketball with Jay Wright" radio show which airs on SportsRadio 610 WIP and its sister station, 1210 WPHT. The show is also streamed live via the Nova Nation All-Access Pass at villanova.com.