PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/13/2016 – The #1 ranked Villanova Wildcats were having difficulty getting the outside shots to fall. In that situation the team would have to rely on the inside game and the defense. The Wildcats got the ball to senior Daniel Ochefu who scored a career-high 25 points to lead Villanova to a 73 – 63 win over the Red Storm of St. John’s in front of 18,052 at the Wells Fargo Center. Ochefu made 11 of 14 from the floor and with his 9 rebounds helped Nova by the Red Storm. It was not the best performance by the Wildcats, but they found the way.
“We were fortunate to go inside to Daniel (Ochefu),” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “Not only did he score, but he made some great passes and got us some shots. It’s the balance of our team. We’ll take it on a night where we didn’t play well offensively, you’ve got a big guy who came in and be a force, that makes a big difference.”
Ochefu shouldered the offensive load, but he felt it was the defensive end of the floor that made the difference for the Wildcats who forced 19 Red Storm turnovers and a 23 – 14 advantage in points off turnovers. Nova also had a 37 – 28 rebounding edge.
“Urgency is always intense in all of our games,” said Ochefu. “We try not to rely on our offense to win games. We look to defense and rebounding to win games for us.”
Villanova had a hard time shaking St. John’s, who came into the game looking for their first Big East win of the season. The teams were shooting the ball as cold as the weather in Philadelphia. After missing their first 11 three-point shots Ryan Arcidiacono finally connected at the 18:21 mark of the second half. But it was apparent that the ball had to go inside for the Wildcats to win it. Ochefu scored 10 of the first 15 Wildcat points of the second half on layups and a dunk off a turnover to give his team a 43 – 37 lead at the 14:47 mark. The lead would grow to as many as 15 points on a layup by Arcidiacono with 5:36 on the clock.
On the other side the Red Storm was having success from beyond the arc. Amar Alibegovic led St. John’s with 18 points and made 4 of 10 from distance. The Red Storm made 10 of 25 from beyond the arc. Malik Ellison scored 11 points.
“We played against a team that made big shots,” Wright said. ” We kept our composure and found a way to win. Those couple of offensive rebounds we got kept us alive, getting it to Daniel, getting to the foul line, all of those little things you have to do. I was happy about that.”
Villanova improves to 22 – 3 on the season and 12 – 1 in the Big East. The Wildcats look forward to a Big Five game next as they visit North Broad Street to play Temple. It will be a battle that Villanova expects.
“Every year we play Temple it’s a challenge,” Wright said. “It’s a tough environment and they have a good team.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian
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