VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — James Bell scored 20 points and JayVaughn Pinkston had 19 to lead No. 6 Villanova to its fifth straight victory, 70-53 over Seton Hall on Friday night.
Villanova coach Jay Wright reached 400 career victories. He has won 278 games at Villanova (278-146; 2001-present) after going 122-85 at Hofstra (1994-2001). Wright has led his teams to 10 NCAA tournaments and took the Wildcats to the 2009 Final Four.
The Wildcats (21-2, 9-1 Big East) are perennial Big East contenders and this season’s team is his best team since ’09.
Wright and Rollie Massimino both have nine 20-win seasons at Villanova, though Massimino has the one win that really matters, the 1985 national championship over Georgetown.
Daniel Ochefu had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, including the game-changing buckets in the first half.
It’s not a stretch to think these balanced Wildcats could make a deep run in March. When a player like Darrun Hilliard (13.7 points) is a non-factor offensively with just 10 points against the Pirates, a reserve like Dylan Ennis steps in and hits a 3 to stretch the lead to 51-36. Bell buried a 3 as the shot clock expired for a 56-40 lead, leaving just the finishing touches on Villanova’s 10th win in its last 11 games.
The student section burst into a chant of “400! 400!” in the final minutes in honor of the milestone for the popular coach.
Sterling Gibbs led Seton Hall (13-10, 4-6) with 16 points
Seton Hall made only two baskets in the first 6 minutes of the second half and never seriously threatened the rest of the game.
The Pirates played without swingman Fuquan Edwin, their second leading scorer, and Eugene Teague, their top rebounder, in their 83-67 loss to Villanova on Jan. 8. Edwin and Teague were back in the lineup, but it didn’t really matter — the Pirates haven’t won a road game against Villanova since Feb. 26, 1994.
The Wildcats were coming off an 81-58 win over Xavier and have made a habit of thumping teams in most of their 21 wins.
But the power outage that swept through campus this week because of storms seemed to leave Villanova’s offense unplugged for the first 16 minutes.
They missed their first seven 3-pointers against the worst 3-point defensive team in the Big East until Bell connected late in the half.
Ochefu at last got the offense rolling, with a dunk; a pump-fake that led to an uncontested right-handed layup; and then another dunk off a perfect baseline pass from Pinkston that made it 29-26. Bell followed with a 3-pointer (Nova was 2 of 11 in the half) and they led 34-26 at halftime.
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