Villanova’s ball-control issues continued to plague them in the loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday. (Lucas Migliarino/The Villanovan)
by Angie Matarozzi
Coming off two dominant wins over Depaul last week and University of South Florida on Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats faced the Cincinnati Bearcats Tuesday night in Ohio.
Coming in, Villanova shared a 6-5 record with the Bearcats in Big East play. Aside from a New Mexico defeat, all of Cincinnati’s losses have come from within the conference, and Villanova looked to continue this trend on the road at Fifth Third Arena.
Despite suffering two consecutive losses to Providence and Pittsburgh, Cincinnati bounced back to defeat Villanova 68-50 behind junior standout guard Sean Kilpatrick who hit four of the Bearcat’s 12 3-point baskets for the night.
The game began stagnant and sloppy offensively for both Villanova and Cincinnati, with the turnover totals for both teams equaling the game score—six—at the 14 minute mark.
Junior point guard Tony Chennault provided the Wildcats with consecutive jumpers off the bench to give Villanova an 8-7 lead with roughly 11 minutes left in the first half.
However, the Bearcats were quick to warm up, jumping into a full-court press after made baskets to upset Villanova’s offensive rhythm early on.
Struggling to limit second-chance shots against the seventh best rebounding team in the country, Villanova began to trail as the Bearcats heated up from beyond the arc.
Cincinnati made the first four 3-pointers of the game, with the last one coming from sophomore forward Jermaine Sanders at the five minute mark to put the Bearcats up 21-14.
Closing in on two minutes until halftime, freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono and junior guard James Bell made consecutive triples to put Villanova decisively back in the game at 26-24.
But despite starting out 1-6 from the field, Kilpatrick was able to answer Villanova’s run with his own pair of threes to establish a 32-24 lead with just under a minute left to play in the half.
Villanova lacked any decisive swings in their favor until the last possession of play in the first half.
Arcidiacono scrambled to hold onto the ball with 16 seconds left after dribbling into a Bearcat double team.
While lying on the ground, Arcidiacono wildly tossed the ball over his shoulder, towards the foul line. Redshirt sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston grabbed the ball while in midair and desperately shot before falling to the floor.
The shot went in as the buzzer sounded, providing a highlight reel-worthy play in an otherwise mediocre game. The Wildcats trailed 32-29 at the break, with Pinkston leading the team with eight points and two rebounds.
Kilpatrick led UC with 10 points and two rebounds of his own at the midway point. With 3-pointers playing an important role in the game’s outcome, Cincinnati was 6-16 from distance while Villanova was 2-7.
The Wildcats hoped to carry momentum into the second half from Pinkston’s buzzer beater.
However, senior guard JaQuon Parker, who has of late picked up the offensive slack from junior guard Cashmere Wright’s knee injury, contributed the first five points for Cincinnati after intermission.
The Bearcats controlled the tempo of the second half from the onset, frustrating Villanova’s offense by extending into a strong half-court press that the Wildcats were unable to take advantage of.
UC did not tolerate dribble penetration and was collectively quick to collapse on any Wildcat attempting to drive into the lane.
By the 15 minute mark, Arcidiacono had picked up three personal fouls and senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou looked noticeably cold from his go-to 15 foot jumper.
A 3-point play from Kilpatrick with 13:30 left in the second half built the Bearcat’s lead 42-33.
The turning point in the game came roughly around the seven minute mark when Kilpatrick, Sanders, and Wright hit consecutive threes giving Cincy a 56-39 lead and putting them on a 19-6 run.
Villanova seemed unable to contain Kilpatrick who, despite starting out shaky from the field, finished with 19 points on 6-12 from the field.
Although the Wildcats shot a solid 42 percent from the field in the contest, they struggled to breakthrough UC’s trap defense and gave up 21 points off turnovers.
Pinkston scored a team-high 12 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats. Yarou finished behind Pinkston with 10 points and 5 rebounds. Sophomore guard Darrun Hilliard, who has been Villanova’s break-out offensive player of late averaging 16.2 points in the past eight games, was quiet with just five points in the contest. Villanova was just 46 percent from the free throw line.
“It’s all about attitude,” redshirt guard Dylan Ennis said. “Stay together and play Villanova basketball that coach preaches to us. Tough, smart, and unselfish.”
Villanova will stay on the road for their next game. Traveling to Hartford, Conn. for a matchup against the niversity of Connecticut, it is easy to consider this a must-win game for the ’Cats.
So far, the best Big East road win ’Nova has is against DePaul. The committee will not look favorably on Villanova unless they win games away from home.