PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Knowing that Mount St. Mary’s is a team that likes to press and take away the 3-point shot, Villanova head coach Jay Wright hoped his offense would be able to score inside.
The Wildcats did that and then some.
Led by 21 points from junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova scored 60 points in the paint en route to a commanding 90-59 win over Mount St. Mary’s Wednesday night.
“You’re not going to beat their pressure by kicking it out for 3s, so you have to take it to the basket,” Wright said. “I thought we did a good job taking it to the basket and we did put the ball in the post.”
Darrun Hilliard added 18 points for Villanova (2-0) and freshman Josh Hart had the best game of his young career with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wildcats, who struggled shooting the ball in their season-opening win over Lafayette, shot a blistering 37 for 59 from the field.
“I thought we played well tonight,” Wright said. “I think Mount St. Mary’s is a much better team than what the score indicates. We watched film of them and they’re going to be good. We just played well.”
Julian Norfleet led Mount St. Mary’s (0-2) with 15 points and Philadelphia native Sam Prescott scored 13.
The Mountaineers took an 8-7 lead on a three-point play from Norfleet right before the first media timeout, but the Wildcats took control of the game from there with a 16-0 run. The spurt was highlighted by a reverse alley-oop dunk from James Bell off a feed from Tony Chennault.
Bell, who poured in a career-high 24 points against Lafayette on Saturday, finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Chennault had a game-high six assists off the bench, and Hart – who missed some practice time in the preseason while dealing with a concussion – shot 7 for 8 from the field and committed just one turnover in 22 minutes of action.
“He’s just getting better every day,” Wright said of Hart. “I thought he really handled the ball well against their pressure. We needed a guy that can beat their pressure and still finish at the rim because they force you to do that. If you don’t have guys like that, you could be in real trouble against that pressure.”
Ryan Arcidiacono (nine points) wasn’t one of the four Villanova players to score in double figures, but he made his presence felt in other ways. At different points in the first half, the Villanova point guard crashed into the press table, into Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian and into his own bench.
Arcidiacono, who battled a rib injury in the preseason, came out for the second half with a new jersey and a bandage on his right arm after cutting his elbow just before halftime. But he continued to dive all over the floor in the second half, even with the Wildcats holding a commanding lead.
“I love that,” Wright said. “These guys talk about playing 40 minutes. If you say it, you’ve got to do it. And they did it tonight.”
Mount St. Mary’s challenges teams for all 40 minutes, dubbing its style of play “Mayhem” because it features a pressing defense and an offense reliant on the 3-point shot. But the Mountaineers, picked to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference, weren’t able to rattle its more athletic opponents from the Big East, and shot just 8 for 27 from beyond the arc.
“We just didn’t come out focused,” Prescott said. “If we came out the way we’re supposed to play, it’s not a 31-point game. It’s not a 31-point game at all.”
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