VILLANOVA, PA 12/15/2013 – Since each team had weapons that can be used in many ways, the question became who could adjust to the opponent better. That answer was #10/14 Villanova who pulled away in the second half to win easily 73 – 52. La Salle got points inside early as forward Jerrell Wright scored 18 first half points. He would get just two more at the foul line in the second half. Meanwhile, the Wildcats stayed balance putting up a consistent effort on the offensive end of the floor. Guard Darrun Hilliard put in a game-high 21 points. Villanova Coach Jay Wright credited the La Salle guards for creating the situations for Wright to score, but his team adjusted.
“Their guards gave us trouble,” Wright said. “Wright got the points. In the second half we backed off and used our size. Playing bigger created separation.”
“They were beating us off the dribble, and we got caught in rotation.”
The La Salle guards got 7 first half assists, none on the second half.
“We got used to their quickness, like when you face a pitcher who throws a hundred miles per hour, you get used to it the second and third time you are at bat.”
The La Salle guards were having trouble scoring in the first half. Conventional wisdom said that the guards would do the scoring for La Salle. The backcourt of Duren, Mills, and Garland scored 7 first half points. Villanova did not stop Explorer forward Jerrell Wright who had his first half points making 7 of 9 inside and 4 of 5 from the line. The Wildcats did have balance on their side as guards Darrun Hilliard and freshman Josh Hart scored 9 points each. The hosts used a 7 – 0 run to take a 27 – 19 lead at the 6:56 mark. The lead would grow to as many as 10, but the Explorers fought back scoring the last 6 points of the half to trial 38 – 34 at halftime.
In the second half La Salle was shut down on offense. Villanova opened the half with a 19 – 5 run to take control. A three-pointer by forward Kris Jenkins gave the Wildcats a 57 – 39 lead with 12:19 remaining. The Explorers did not get their first basket of the half until guard Sam Mills made a bucket five and a half minutes into the stanza. The lead would grow to as many as 25 points near the end of the game.
“It was harder to get him (Wright) the ball,” said La Salle Coach Dr. John Giannini. “When he got eighteen in the first half their coaches said let’s not let him get another eighteen.”
The Villanova defense held La Salle to 28.6% shooting in the second half (6 – 21), and no three-point baskets. Meanwhile the Wildcats found their stride making 13 of 22 (59.1%) in the latter part of the game.
Hart finished the game with 13 points, Jenkins added 11.
“Their skill level is extremely high,” said Giannini. They are infinitely better than they were eight months ago. They are just better players.”
La Salle is at 5 – 5 for the season. Villanova is a perfect 10 for 10 and sports a 3 – 0 record in the Big Five. They can take the city title with a win over Temple, but they have to wait until February 1 for that game. It will be another goal for the team to achieve, one of many.
“I didn’t notice the Big Five too much when I came in as a freshman,” said Hilliard. “It would be a good accomplishment for us, and our fans, and for the city who supports us.”
“We have a lot of work to do.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian