After a difficult loss to Ohio State earlier in the week Villanova bounced back convincingly, beating Ohio University, 78-54, on Saturday.
The Wildcats struggled offensively in the opening minutes of the game, falling to an early 6-0 deficit. However, after a quick pair of threes from Saddiq Bey and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, the rest of the offense began to heat up. Ultimately, Villanova went 14-31 (45.2%) from three and 23-59 (39.0%) from the field in a dramatic improvement from Wednesday’s performance. Most noticeably, the Wildcats’ overall free throw percentage increased from 40.9% (3-7) against Ohio State to 78.3% (18-23) against Ohio.
Individually, many Wildcats had impressive offensive performances. Bey led the team in points (19, 7-10) but it was freshman guard Justin Moore who had a break-out performance, recording a career high 18 points (6-13) and a block. Fellow freshman Robinson-Earl posted his second double-double in three games, scoring 11 points (2-7) and 11 rebounds. His four assists were tied for second on the team.
However, it was the excellent defensive effort that set the Wildcats apart on Saturday.
“I was proud of our guys' defensive effort,” said head coach Jay Wright.
The Wildcats all but neutralized Ohio as an outside threat, holding the Bobcats to 3-20 (15.0%) shooting from beyond the arc on the day and 0-8 (0.0%) from three in the first half. In fact, 16 of Ohio’s 21 first half points came from inside the paint, a number that would increase to 36 of 54 total points by the end of the game.
"This was a much better defensive effort today than at Ohio State, obviously,” Wright said. “We learned a lot defensively from that game.”
It appeared that a large part of that improvement came from junior guard Collin Gillespie who, in his first game without a protective mask, had a great defensive performance highlighted by three steals (only Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (4) had more). Jermaine Samuels also had an impressive defensive game, notching eight rebounds and five assists with nine points (1-7).
Villanova is back in action on Thursday in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, which begins at 11:30 a.m. in the HTC Center. The Wildcats open the first of three games against Middle Tennessee.