Villanova Makes A Point Against Louisville
PHILADELPHIA(CBS)—Villanova is getting there. Gradually, the Wildcats are inching their way into the kind of team their coach, Jay Wright, thinks they could be. Wednesday night’s Big East Conference 88-74 victory over No. 18 Louisville at the Wells Fargo Center may have provided the nudge Wright needed.
The Wildcats, ranked No. 7 in the nation, remain one of three teams (along with Pittsburgh and Syracuse) still undefeated in the Big East, moving to 4-0 in the conference and 15-1 overall, winners now of 10-straight games, while Louisville fell for the first time this season in conference play, dropping to 2-1 and 13-3 overall.
What was nice about this victory was the productivity Villanova got from their big man, 6-10 sophomore Mouphtaou Yarou, who finished with a career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds. Yarou played a big role in helping Villanova outscore Louisville in the paint, 42-24.
“Mouph was just awesome tonight,” Wright said. “He’s getting better defensively, and I thought we’d have a chance to get him the ball inside tonight.”
Corey Stokes finished with a team-high 23 for Villanova, which scored a season-high 88 against Louisville, and led four Wildcat starters in double figures.
There were nine lead changed—seven in the first half. But after Antonio Pena’s short jumper with 18:38 left in the game gave Villanova a 46-44 lead, the Wildcats never trailed again. The closest Louisville would come to the Wildcats was 69-63, with 6:24 left to play after a Stephan Van Treese free throw.
Then just as suddenly, the Wildcats exploded, scoring seven straight on their way to building their largest lead of the game, 81-65 with less than four minutes left.
Villanova took a 42-41 halftime lead. But things didn’t look too smooth for the Wildcats at the outset, trailing 7-0 the first 90 seconds into the game. The seven-point margin proved to be the largest Louisville would have. The Wildcats chipped away to tie the score at 7-7.
From there, it turned into the kind of frenetic game Villanova loves to play. The Wildcats were 5-of-8 from three-point range, while they had trouble getting out to defend against the Cardinals, who made 8-of-15 for 53.3-percent from beyond the arc.
Stokes led all scorers with 16 at the half, and Corey Fisher added 10, going 4-for-5 from the floor, including a trey. Stokes was coming off a left hamstring injury, suffered in the Cincinnati victory.
“I wasn’t thinking about it,” said Stokes, referring to his hamstring.
“But I was,” Wright said. “I was thinking about it a lot.”
There were seven lead-changes in the helter-skelter first half, and it was Fisher that capped it for Villanova, putting the ’Cats up 42-41 with a little under a minute left in the half.
“They sliced through us in the first half,” Wright said. “Our second-half, half-court defense was very good. But I think our transition defense was terrible in the first half. I still see a lot of improvement with this team. I do know we have to get a lot better.”
Wright had expressed some doubts as to whether or not Villanova was good enough to earn its No. 7 rating. He’s starting to come around.
“We’re starting to earn it,” Wright said.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito