Ryan Arcidiacono has led an undefeated Villanova squad through Hagan Arena and the Bahamas. (Kelly Ryan/The Villanovan)
by Mark Mullany
After being down by seven points, ’Nova scored 59 points in the second half to slay the St. Joseph’s Hawks, 98-68, at Hawk Hill.
The Wildcats’ 30-point win is the largest score differential in the history of the St. Joseph’s-’Nova rivalry.
“I thought about every possible scenario—except this one,” Head Coach Jay Wright said when explaining his surprise for this Big Five matchup ending in a 30-point victory.
“We made every shot. It was unbelievable. It just happens once in a while. We have good shooters. You’re bound to have one of those nights. It was crazy.”
Senior guard James Bell fueled the second half scoring frenzy with a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds.
He scored 23 of his 25 points in the second half, and shot five of 10 behind the three-point line.
Leading all scorers for the contest was junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston. He finished with 27 points and connected on six and-one layups.
However, Jay Wright was more ecstatic about Pinkston’s defensive performance.
“Pinkston had the best defensive game of his life,” Wright said. “In the first half he guarded [senior forward Halil] Kanacevic on the perimeter. In the second half, he guarded [senior forward Roanld] Roberts inside. I was so proud of him.”
Coming out of halftime, the ’Cats held a narrow lead over the Hawks, 39-35. ’Nova opened the first six minutes of the second half with a 20-6 run.
After St. Joseph’s senior guard Langston Galloway missed a 3-pointer, junior guard Darrun Hilliard fired a shot from beyond the arc from a pass by sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono. While Arcidiacono missed his next three, Bell made the tip-in.
Then, Bell and Pinkston led the ’Cats for the rest of the run, scoring 16 of the 20 points. At the 14:18 mark, ’Nova led St. Joseph’s, 59-40.
The first half was much more reminiscent of a typical Big Five matchup.
In the first 20 minutes of the game, there were four ties, and neither team held more than a seven-point lead.
Pinkston broke the ice on the scoreboard with a layup to open the game with a ’Nova 9-3 run.
On the Hawks’ first possession, Bell stole the ball, went coast-to-coast and finished with the transition dunk.
In the next ’Nova score, Pinkston handed the ball off to sophomore forward Daniel Ochefu, who threw down the authoritative dunk with 17:38 remaining in the first half. Hilliard completed the run with a three-pointer off an assist from Bell.
The Hawks, then, fed off their home crowd’s energy to go on a 20-8 run.
St. Joseph’s junior guard Chris Wilson sank the tying layup, and Roberts gave the Hawks their first lead at 11:55 mark, making the score 15-13.
During this scoring run, Kanacevic, who is infamously known for “flipping the Hawk” at the Nova Nation last year, connected on an and-one layup with 9:35 remaining in the game.
As he stood at the foul line, the ’Nova fans, who invaded Hawk Hill for the contest, jeered him as he attempted his free throw.
While Kanacevic successfully sank that shot, the Nova “Colony” continued to focus its cheering at the St. Joseph’s forward every time he went to the charity stripe for the rest of the night.
The Hawks appeared to be in control of the game when Galloway excited the student section by stretching the lead to 23-17.
To rally back, Pinkston hit an and-one layup of his own and completed the three-point play with the free throw. Arcidiacono followed up with a shot form downtown to even the score at 23-all.
Unfortunately, St. Joseph’s took its largest lead of the night with a 7-0 run, which saw contributions from Roberts, Galloway and freshman forward DeAndre Bembry.
Pinkston brought ’Nova back by scoring the next five points. Then freshman guard Josh Hart hit the game-tying free throws. The Wildcats closed the half with a 9-5 run.
When Ochefu pivoted and made the go-ahead basket at the 2:08 mark, ’Nova never lost the lead for the remainder of the game.
After freshman forward Kris Jenkins hit an open three to make the score, 39-33, Galloway nailed a buzzer-beater jumper to end the half at 39-35.
Overall, the Wildcats dominated in every aspect of the game. They out shot the Hawks, 45.1 percent to 36.7 percent, outrebounded them, 45-38, and won the assist battle, 19-11. The Wildcats only turned the ball over an impressive five times.
From beyond the arc, ’Nova shot exactly 40 percent with 12 of 30 and were 78.6 percent from the charity stripe.
Besides Pinkston and Bell, Hilliard and Arcidiacono tallied double digits in scoring with 14 and 11 respectively.
’Nova will close out the semester at the Pavilion with another Big Five matchup against the LaSalle Explorers this Sunday at 2:30 p.m.