Villanova shows depth, chemistry in record win

Villanova shows depth, chemistry in record win
March 2, 2014, 7:15 pm
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Tony Chennault (5) and Josh Hart (3) combined for 18 points off the bench in No. 8 Villanova's 73-56 win over Marquette at the Wells Fargo Center. (USA Today Images)

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"That's just the beauty of the team. That's why we can hopefully go so far. It's not about having an ego, we just like the next person going in."

- Darrun Hilliard on Villanova's chemistry

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Their leading scorer didn’t score. Their second-leading scorer had three points at halftime. Their fourth-leading scorer didn’t score in the first half and finished with eight. One of their starting forwards scored two points.

And the No. 8 Villanova Wildcats beat a 17-win Marquette team by 17 points.

“We all talk about it,” freshman reserve Josh Hart said, speaking for the Wildcat bench. “If we get that chance, we want to raise the level.

“Just go in and cause havoc, get on the offensive glass, defensive glass, defensively get stops. Whenever we go in, we always look to raise the level of intensity.”

The Wildcats set a school record Sunday with their 26th regular-season win, toppling Marquette 73-56 at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Starting guard Darrun Hilliard scored a career-high 26 points on 7 for 11 shooting from the field and 5 for 8 shooting from distance, but Villanova’s four other starters totaled just 21 points – only six in the first half.

Villanova’s bench played a combined 86 minutes, outscored Marquette’s starters, 26-17, and added 10 rebounds, six assists, a block and a couple steals.

We know how talented Villanova’s starters are. This was a remarkable show of the Wildcats’ depth.

Wright goes nine deep, and without the right sort of chemistry, that just wouldn't work.

But obviously it works.

“If you’re doing it with nine guys and you have to worry about guys’ egos, it’s hard,” Wright said. “But with this group, it’s strictly a basketball decision.

“Sometimes, it’s because someone didn’t do something they were supposed to do and we want to take them out and tell them. Sometimes it’s because guys are tired. Sometimes it’s because we see matchups.

“As a coach, it’s so easy with this group because it doesn’t [bother] anybody [leaving the game]. It’s really a great group to coach.”

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, four of Villanova’s five starters, managed just six first-half points.

Despite all of that, Villanova led by 11 at halftime.

“We’ve been trying to build that depth during the season,” Wright said. “It was really important to have that first half like that.”

Hart had another big game off the bench, hitting 3 of 5 threes and contributing 13 points and four boards in 23 minutes. Tony Chennault, Kris Jenkins and Dylan Ennis also provided energy off the bench for 'Nova.

“In the first half, playing without James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono, I thought our energy level actually went up,” Wright said.

“We were a quicker team. Offensively, we might not have been as efficient, but our defense was actually better. I don’t think it’s a knock on those two, I just think we went a little smaller and quicker, and those guys were really fresh when they came in the second half.”

Villanova, which moved into first place in the Big East when Creighton lost to Xavier Saturday, improved to 26-3 overall and 14-2 in the conference. Marquette fell to 17-12 and 9-7.

Despite two head-to-head losses, Villanova now has a one-game lead over Creighton with two games remaining for both.

More importantly, Villanova keeps showing that it’s possible to be a top-10 team – maybe a top-five team – with a heavy dose of teamwork, hustle and depth, and no true superstar.

“We don’t depend on just one guy,” Hilliard said. “There’s a bunch of guys, and we’ve got a lot of bodies to throw at you, and that’s just the beauty and the makeup of this team.

“We like each other, man. We’re brothers. We enjoy playing with each other. We take each other to our homes. We just like each other. It’s nothing that we’re trying to do -- it just happens. We hang out, joke around, try to embarrass each other. It’s easy when you really like each other. 

“That’s just the beauty of the team. That’s why we can hopefully go so far. It’s not about having an ego -- we just like the next person going in.”