VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) – Maurice Sutton scored 12 points to lead three Villanova players in double figures as the Wildcats rolled to a season-opening 78-58 victory over District of Columbia on Friday night in the opening round of the 2K Sports Classic.
Ryan Arcidiacono had 11 points and JayVaughn Pinkston scored 10 for the Wildcats, who are trying to bounce back from a disappointing 13-19 record last season.
“It was a good start,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We have a lot of work to do, but for the first game we’ll take that. We just kept grinding and (used) our depth and our size over time. They can play with us for a while. Over time our depth and physicality wore them down.”
Quasim Jones netted 13 points to lead the Firebirds, a Division II school coached by former Philadelphia 76ers’ center Jeff Ruland.
Villanova led by five points at halftime and by two early in the second half. The Wildcats took a 54-37 lead with 12:18 left on back-to-back inside scores by Sutton and never were threatened.
The Wildcats’ string of seven straight NCAA tournament appearances ended last season.
“Stick to our core values,” Sutton said on what it’s going to take to turn things around. “Get back to that and do that every game.”
Besides Sutton’s hustling play, another positive sign for the Wildcats was the performance of Arcidiacono, a freshman from nearby Langhorne, Pa. He played particularly well in the opening 10 minutes when he drained two 3-pointers and found Mouphtaou Yarou underneath the basket for an easy layup after a pretty assist.
“No surprise,” Wright said. “He’s been great all preseason. He has a lot more in him. He’s a leader.”
Arcidiacono said he’ll take that for an opening game, but he has plenty of work to do.
“There’s a lot of improvement,” he said. “I had three turnovers. I thought it was an OK start. I was happy the way we came out in the second half.”
Villanova struggled to a 33-28 lead at the half, shooting 11 for 28 from the field, including 4 for 11 from 3-point range.
The Wildcats shot better after halftime, going 16 for 31 from the field.
Villanova will host Marshall at 1 p.m. Sunday in the second round before playing Purdue on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in the semifinals.
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