Villanova Basketball Comes to Life Against Boston University
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It was almost comical to see the Terriers of Boston University on the selective slate of games that Villanova scheduled at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.
Equally comical was the idea that this would be a big game for the Wildcats. But the Wildcats having lost four of their last five games, and a big game was exactly what it was.
Villanova put a 68-43 beating on Boston, which no one could have predicted after a nightmare first half.
Despite trailing by just three at the break, 26-23, coach Jay Wright's team played an ugly 20 minutes of basketball.
On the offensive end they knocked down just six shots on 33 attempts, missing their last 16 shots of the half.
Defensively, they showed the problems that have plagued them all year—poor rotations, slow switches and undefended shots around the basket.
With all their warts showing, one thing that Jay Wright-coached teams are known for was on display—effort.
Effort got them into passing lanes. Effort got their hands into shooter's faces. Effort got them to the free throw line 11 times.
The second half played nothing like the first. The 'Cats ran out of the gates on a 19-4 run and never looked back, sparked by junior swingman Dominic Cheeks' defensive energy.
After point guard Maalik Wayns hit a three to cut the Boston lead to 29-28, Cheeks came up with a steal and found Wayns for a layup that put Villanova up for good, at 30-29.
In the second half, Villanova clamped down on defense holding the Terriers to just 17 points. The Wildcats also showed some life on offense with seven players scoring at least five points.
Villanova center, Mouphtaou Yarou, scored 13 points and added 13 rebounds, but the offensive story of the night was Cheek.
He has struggled over the last six games, averaging just 7.7 points per game on 28 percent shooting.
Cheek shot 4-6 in the second half on the way to scoring 11 of his game high 14 points. He also came up with seven rebounds.
Wayns scored 10 points with two assists, and sophomore guard James Bell added nine points, seven rebounds and four assists to the cause.
Boston's leading scorer on the season, Darryl Partin, averaged 22.7 points per game going into the evening. Freshman Achraf Yacoubou and Cheek teamed up to hold him to just six points on 2-15 shooting.
Philadelphia native D.J. Irving led Boston scorers with 11 points.
Villanova desperately needed a win, and their next game is away against their most bitter rival, the St. Joseph's Hawks. Philadelphia's "Holy War" is no place to try and end a losing skid.
While Villanova's second half was a scintillating display from a team that has frustrated all year, it will take a better effort to survive the Hawks.
Jay Wright has until Wednesday night to coax a full 40 minutes out of his Wildcats.
With just six wins and four losses on the season, now would be the time for Villanova to get its act together.
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