‘Cats take down Hall



David Cassilo


Call it a coincidence, but Cal Ripken Jr., a man known for having one of baseball’s most memorable streaks, got his chance to see the No. 2 men’s basketball team try to extend a few of its own on Tuesday night.

Villanova came into the game as winners of 35 straight games in the building, 11 straight overall and eight straight in the Big East this season. Their opponent?  The Seton Hall Pirates and the streaky shooting of junior guard Jeremy Hazell.

The Wildcats and Hazell did not disappoint baseball’s Iron Man, as Villanova prevailed 81-71, despite 32 points from Hazell. The win improves Villanova to 20-1 overall and 9-0 in the Big East as they head into a much-anticipated game at Georgetown on Saturday.

While Hazell was the only Pirate to reach double-figures for Seton Hall, the Wildcats used a balanced attack to outlast the Pirates.

“In every category, we had a little edge,” Head Coach Jay Wright said. “It wasn’t like we were dominating in any area.  It was everyone contributing and being sound in all areas.”

Aside from the victory, senior guard Scottie Reynolds gained a milestone, as he became the eighth player in Villanova history to score 2,000 points when he hit a running layup through the lane with 11:26 remaining in the second half.

Reynolds’ team had a strong start in the first half, as Villanova was able to seize control when, after trailing 16-15, the Wildcats went on an 8-0 run to gain separation. 

The team did not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the first half, as it hit halftime up 41-34.

A seven-point lead was more than Wright could have hoped for as Reynolds tallied just two first-half points and was forced to watch the final 5:36 from the bench after picking up his second foul on a charging call.

Redshirt junior forward Antonio Peña picked up the slack for Reynolds as he led all Wildcats in the first half with 12 points before finishing with a team-high 16.

Peña’s play proved necessary, as Villanova could not find a way to slow down Hazell all night, especially in the first half. 

Despite rotating several players to cover the conference’s second-leading scorer, Hazell still managed to notch 17 first-half points on 6-for-10 shooting.

“Hazell is amazing,” Wright said. “That was a really good offensive performance, and it was not our game plan to let him get his and try to stop the other guys. We were trying to stop him.”

Hazell did not disappoint in the second half either as he almost singlehandedly brought the Pirates back into the game with 15 second-half points to finish with 32 overall.

The final of those 32 points tied the game at 62 with fewer than 10 minutes remaining, and it appeared as though the Pirates had a chance to steal one from the Wildcats.

But, just like Villanova has done all season, it battled back and went on an 11-0 run to pull away from the Pirates.

“We live for the moments where we can just push through and open up a game,” Reynolds said. “We really take pride in that.”

Reynolds and junior guard Corey Stokes played critical roles in seizing control of the game. Villanova’s newest 2,000-point scorer had 13 of his 15 points in the second half, while Stokes had all 11 of his points in the final 20 minutes of play.

The Wildcats also caught a break in the final four minutes of the game when Seton Hall Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez benched Hazell for trying to do too much.

“You just can’t all of a sudden go one-on-five,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not the way you want to play college basketball.”

On the other hand, the Wildcats found yet another way to win, this time using a decisive advantage in rebounding to get past the Pirates. Villanova led by a 50-31 margin on the glass, including 21-11 in offensive rebounds.

For one of only four teams in the country with one loss, it was just yet another reason why the Wildcats may have the parts to win a national title.

“Villanova just has a lot of weapons, and they can hurt you in a lot of ways,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a reason that they are second in the country.”