VILLANOVA, PA. 11/20/2104 – The Villanova Wildcats trailed by two with just under two minutes to play, and were staring at an upset. The 12th ranked Wildcats responded with a 9 -0 run down the stretch to escape with a 72 – 65 win over the Bucknell Bison at the Pavilion in a regional round game of the Progressive Legends Classic.
“I’m proud of our guys the we gutted it out,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright.
Bucknell trailed early, but stayed in the game. Eventually they caught Villanova in the second half and took their last lead at 65 – 63 on a three-pointer by guard Chris Haas who scored a game and career-high 32 points. The Wildcats began the comeback Ryan Arcidiacono. On the next possession the Bison got inside shots, but Villanova center Daniel Ochefu blocked both the layup and the follow. Ochefu’s made free throw at the 57 second mark gave the lead back to the hosts.
“I thought Daniel (Ochefu) was outstanding defensively,” Wright said. “He had a good offensive game, but I thought he was all mover the floor defensively. Those plays protecting the basket at the end were huge.”
The Blue and White kept the lead as they turned up the defense. Bucknell looked for Haas but a steal by guard Darrun Hilliard off Haas kept the Bison at bay. Two more Villanova free throws by Dylan Ennis at the 26 second mark provided a three-point cushion at 68 – 65. It was still a one possession game when Hilliard stole the ball and went in for a dunk with 9 seconds left to put the game in the win column.
Ochefu scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds. Ennis scored a team-best 16 points. Hilliard was credited with 4 steals, but none were bigger than the last two.
Turnovers were a problem for Bucknell as they committed 21 for the game that led to a 23 – 7 edge points off turnovers for Villanova.
Haas’ 32 points on 9 for 12 shooting and 11 of 12 from the foul line was just 3 points shy of the Pavilion record for points by an opponent.
“We knew they were going to Haas,” said Wright. They found different ways to get the ball to him. They did a great job. We couldn’t stop them.”
“This was a heart wrenching loss,” said Bucknell Coach Dave Paulsen. “We battled back from a big deficit but could not close it out. When you get a chance to get that win, you’ve got to get that win.”
Villanova is 3 – 0 on the season and heads to Brooklyn to meet VCU in the Championship Round of the Classic on Monday. A Bucknell graduate Wright had a unique perspective.
“I’m proud of our guys and my alma mater,” Wright said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian