by Angie Matarozzi
The Towson Tigers (3-1, 0-0 CAA) picked up their first loss of the season Sunday night at the Pavilion against the Villanova Wildcats (3-0, 0-0 Big East).
The Tigers entered Sunday night’s game riding a three game winning streak, yet their offensive rhythm was disrupted on Sunday night by Villanova’s highly effective three-quarter press, and Towson fell to the Wildcats by a score of 78-44.
“When [Towson gets] into their half-court set, as we all saw in the Temple game, they’re really good,” said Head Coach Jay Wright when he described his decision to begin the game with a press.
Villanova was a force of energy early on in the game, pressing Towson in a zone trap that disallowed the Tigers to settle into the half-court offense that was so effective in their Temple victory.
Villanova established a fast-paced rhythm to the game, with senior guard and captain, James Bell, leading the way for the Wildcats in the backcourt. Bell finished with 20 points. He shot 7-12 from the floor and 3-8 from behind the arc.
Four of Villanova’s five starters scored double figures on the night: Bell had 20, junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston and sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono added 12 each and junior guard Darrun Hilliard recorded 10 of his own.
Villanova was electric from beyond the arc early on in the first half. Bell, Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard sunk three successive triples to put the Wildcats up 14-2 at the 16:30 minute mark at the first timeout.
Villanova continued to force turnovers in their extended press. After just seven minutes of play, Towson turned the ball over 11 times. By the time the half was over, Towson had recorded 18 turnovers, leading to 21 points for the Wildcats on the other end.
Villanova’s offensive rhythm frustrated the Tigers into committing early fouls.
By the 14-minute mark, the Wildcats had already entered the bonus and was able to pick up easy points from the charity stripe. Villanova scored 16 more points at the foul line than Towson throughout the contest.
Towson’s star sophomore point guard, Jerome Hairston, got into early foul trouble and was pulled from the game, giving Villanova an edge and allowing the Wildcats to take full advantage of their press. Hairston finished the night with just two points and one assist.
Wright commented that Hairston’s foul trouble, combined with the effective press, helped Villanova establish their early lead.
“Hairston gets three fouls in the first half, and they lose their point guard, and our press was effective,” he said. “I think that’s what got us out to a big lead at halftime.”
With just three minutes left in the half, Bell sunk back-to-back triples that put the Wildcats up 37-20.
Senior point guard Tony Chennault knocked down a mid-range jumper with just a few seconds remaining to send the Wildcats into halftime leading 42-20.
Villanova finished the half shooting 40 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc. Towson shot 38 percent from the floor in the first half yet suffered at the free-throw line, shooting just 27 percent.
Towson’s woes intensified in the second-half of the game.
The Tigers added six more turnovers on the night and their field goal percentage dropped down to 26.5 percent.
James Bell had yet another remarkable play to add to his growing highlight reel this season.
Freshman guard Josh Hart, who provided the Wildcats with a spark of energy off the bench, missed long on a three-point shot from the wing.
Bell grabbed the offensive rebound and completed the play with a swift putback dunk that electrified the student section. The leader for Villanova helped create a 9-0 run to gain a 57-24 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Chennault, whose stat line is often overlooked next to the team’s main point guard and captain, Arcidiacono, finished with a solid six points, five assists and seven rebounds.
The last few remaining minutes of play were closed out by Villanova’s Bench Mob, Henry Lowe, Pat Farrell and Nick McMahon, as well as freshman forwards, Darryl Reynolds and Kris Jenkins.
Senior forward Jerrelle Benimon, a Georgetown transfer, had a team-high 11 points for the Tigers and recorded six rebounds.
Benimon was the only Towson player to score in the double digits.
Sophomore forward Daniel Ochefu was quiet on the offensive end for Villanova, scoring just four points, yet played effective defense. Ochefu contributed four blocks and eight rebounds for the Wildcats.
Villanova finished the game shooting 40.4 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from the three-point line.
The Wildcats shot 72.7 percent from the free-throw line, in comparison to Towson’s abysmal 42.1 percent. Villanova edged out Towson in points off turnovers by 21-1.
The Villanova Wildcats will look to win their fourth consecutive home game against the Delaware Blue Hens tomorrow night in the Pavilion at 7 p.m.