No. 8 Villanova coasts past Rider 88-67
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP)
Rider freshman Jimmie Taylor didn't need to look at the final box score to know what went wrong.
He'd just gotten done watching No. 8 Villanova outplay and outhustle his team for 40 minutes as the No. 8 Wildcats coasted past Rider 88-67 on Saturday.
''We didn't match their energy,'' Taylor said. ''We came out sluggish. We didn't hustle. We didn't get to loose balls. Guys were diving all over the floor but none of those guys were our guys.''
Freshman Josh Hart led Villanova (11-0) with 19 points off the bench. JayVaughn Pinkston added 14 points for Villanova, which shot 50 percent from the field in its final non-conference home game of the season.
One of a dozen unbeaten teams remaining in Division I, the Wildcats (11-0) are off to their best start since the 1961-62 team won its first 12.
The Wildcats now put their unbeaten record on the line against former Big East rival Syracuse next Saturday at the Carrier Dome. The No. 2 Orange are also undefeated at 11-0.
''Everyone's been talking about the Syracuse game,'' Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. ''It's really a pleasure to coach guys who can focus on the next game and have respect for their opponent. That's what we did today.''
Wright said he was concerned about Saturday's game, not only because his team could have been caught looking ahead to the Syracuse showdown but because of the threat that Rider presented.
''As coaches, you know that's a really dangerous team,'' Wright said. ''Their offensive numbers are crazy. We knew that's the kind of team, with their guards, that was going to be tough to turn it over and they could give us a tough game. If our guys didn't come to play, we don't beat them. But our guys came to play.''
The visiting Broncs managed to hang around for much of the first half, pulling within five with 4:41 left until halftime on a pair of free throws from Taylor.
But the Wildcats closed the half on a 16-7 spurt, capped by a 3-pointer from Tony Chennault in the final seconds, to take a comfortable 43-29 lead into the break.
''I thought Villanova did a really good job of taking us out of some of the things we wanted to get accomplished,'' Rider coach Kevin Baggett said. ''Those guys are really good. They're definitely being worthy of being ranked eighth in the country.''
Villanova's pressure rattled Rider as the Wildcats extended their lead even further in the second half.
With just under 15 minutes to go, Darrun Hilliard stole the ball from Shawn Valentine in the backcourt and finished with a slam to give Villanova a 56-35 lead.
The Wildcats led by as many 27 before emptying their bench with one minute left.
''In the locker room, we said we can't have any regrets,'' Taylor said. ''But we're going to regret that second half.''
One thing the Broncs don't need to regret is the play of Taylor. Against Villanova's trapping defense, the freshman point guard committed just one turnover in 36 minutes while dishing four assists. He shot 6 for 12 from the field.
''Jimmie, as a freshman, is doing awesome,'' Baggett said. ''He's figuring it out. He's learning. We're very happy with what he's getting done for us. I see him getting better as the year goes on as we get into the league. He's going to be really good.''
Villanova owns a 24-1 all-time record against Rider, with the Broncs' only win coming in 1944.
Rider has one more non-conference game, against Penn next Sunday, before beginning play in the MAAC.
''You can learn from every one of your games,'' Baggett said. ''We'll go back and watch film. It starts with competing and I thought in the second half, we could have competed a little bit better.''