Hilliard leads No. 6 Villanova past DePaul 87-62
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP)
It was all business for the sixth-ranked Wildcats. Now they can move on to their Big East showdown with Creighton.
Hilliard scored 22 points, Pinkston had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Villanova beat DePaul 87-62 on Wednesday for its sixth straight win.
The Wildcats made a season-high 15 3-pointers and had five players score in double figures in an efficient tuneup for Sunday's game against the 18th-ranked Bluejays. James Bell had 16 points and Arcidiacono finished with 14, including four 3s.
''We just want to get better throughout the year and play our best basketball at the end of the year,'' Hilliard said.
Villanova (22-2, 10-1) opened a three-game trip with its eighth consecutive victory against DePaul. The Wildcats, who lost 96-68 to Creighton on Jan. 20, lead the Big East by one game over the idle Bluejays.
Hilliard said his team was focused on lowly DePaul, even with the big game coming up this weekend, and coach Jay Wright had faith that the Wildcats would bring the right approach to the matchup with the Blue Demons.
''I have great confidence in these guys,'' Wright said. ''It's James Bell, Tony Chennault, Arcidiacono, are the leaders. I just constantly talk to them about just looking at one game at a time and they take care of it. As a coach you always worry about it a little bit but really, with this team, no.''
''I didn't think that we played real well tonight but Villanova had everything to do with it,'' Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell said. ''They're playing at a high level. They shot the ball extremely well. ''
Villanova led 48-31 at halftime and then put it away with a 13-3 run to begin the second half. Daniel Ochefu found Bell for a strong alley-oop dunk and Hilliard made a 3-pointer to make it 61-34 with 16:14 to go, leading to a timeout for DePaul.
The Wildcats had impressive ball movement while shooting 55 percent from the field, including a 15-of-26 performance on 3-point attempts. Hilliard was 5 for 7 from long range and Arcidiacono made each of his four 3-point attempts.
''We just like playing with each other,'' Hilliard said. ''It's just a testament to what we've been through and coach Wright coaching us and us listening and just sticking to what we do.''
It was DePaul's first game since the school announced Monday that senior Cleveland Melvin was no longer enrolled at the university. Melvin, who ranks among DePaul's career leaders in several categories, including scoring and rebounding, was suspended last month for violating team rules.
The Blue Demons are winless in five games since Melvin had 25 points in an 84-74 loss to Xavier on Jan. 20 in his final game with DePaul. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 16.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 20 games this season.
''Sad. That's a brother that I came in here with my freshman year,'' Young said. ''Since he's gone somebody else has to step up, fill his spot, but every game we've got to focus on our opponent and try to get a win.''
Villanova began to pull away midway through the first half, scoring 11 straight points to open a 37-22 lead with 5:27 to go. Bell started the run with a 3-pointer and Dylan Ennis closed it out with another 3.
It was more of the same for the rest of the half. Chennault had a steal that led to a nice fast-break pass by Hilliard to Pinkston, who ran down the middle of the lane for a soaring dunk that made it 46-27 with 1:14 left.
Pinkston was 5 for 7 from the field and 4 for 4 at the line in his second double-double of the season. He had 15 points and 10 rebounds in a 74-67 win at St. John's on Jan. 11.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap