Villanova takes down Akron



TJ Farrell

It is not often that a Villanova player comes close to the number 30 under the point column. Fans have become accustomed to seeing a very balanced box score with low double-digit figures next to most if not all the starters’ names.

However, on Sunday evening, junior guard Josh Hart scored over one third of Villanova’s points, helping his team capture a 75-56 victory over Akron in the second game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Upon reviewing the stat sheet after the action, Hart was asked if anything stood out to him or caught his eye. Modestly, he responded by saying that nothing surprised him.

“Ryan (Arcidiacono) had a heck of a game, it wasn’t one thing, it was everything,” Hart said, continuing his praise for his teammates rather than himself. 

The modesty shown by Hart goes back to the word “attitude” that Head Coach Jay Wright expresses to his team.  It is said after every team huddle on the court, either before a free throw or to break out of a timeout.

The unselfishness demonstrated off the court directly transitions onto the hardwood. Villanova ended Sunday’s game with 19 assists with eight coming from guard Ryan Arcidiacono. 

Along with the eight assists, the senior captain added 15 points, five rebounds, and two steals to his stat line in 33 minutes of action. 

However, quite possibly the most important statistic was the zero that was in the turnover column for Arcidiacono. On the young season, the reigning Co-Big East Player of the Year has committed only one turnover compared to 22 assists. 

“It’s really an incredible number,” said his head coach upon hearing how well his star point guard had been producing. “He’s always played great offense, but he’s playing the best offense since he’s gotten here.” 

Team rebounding and help defense were two crucial keys for Villanova in beating Akron on Sunday evening. Besides Hart’s 27 points, the point totals were spread pretty evenly throughout the starting lineup with Arcidiacono, junior Kris Jenkins, and freshman Jalen Brunson each contributing nine or more points to the total.

Redshirt freshman Mikal Bridges played his best game of his Villanova career thus far, providing a much-needed spark for Jay Wright’s squad that got off to a sluggish start to the game. The local product Bridges was everywhere, seemingly deflecting every pass that came his way, as well as playing tremendous defense down low in the trenches. 

After posting back-to-back double-doubles against Fairleigh Dickinson and East Tennessee State, senior forward Daniel Ochefu was held in check by the girth of the Akron frontcourt, led by 6-11 senior Pat Forsythe.

However, although Ochefu may not have accumulated the rebound or point total he had planned, his effort did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“He made some great plays, created us some great kick out options, getting shots for other people,” Hart said. “That’s something that when you look at 

the stat sheet, it doesn’t cover it.

“He only had four points, but he got other people shots coming off ball screens.” 

Ochefu’s fellow captain Arcidiacono also accredited the big man’s ability to draw the defense into the paint whenever he got the ball, often times leading to a wide open shooter in the corners or wings. 

Ochefu wound up playing 24 minutes against Akron on Sunday night. While he was on the bench, the middle of the floor was controlled by a plethora of different Villanova players, each one holding down the paint as well as the previous one. 

Although there was a significant height advantage for Akron when Ochefu was not only the floor, Wright’s talented squad has learned how to use their strengthens in order for all five players on the court to be able to guard any opponent.

Players such as Hart, Jenkins, sophomore Phil Booth, and Bridges, although undersized and outweighed at times, all played fundamental defense and stood their ground down in the post whenever an opponent came their way. 

Villanova will now head to the Barclays Center to face off against the 2015 NIT champions, the Stanford Cardinal on Thanksgiving night at 4:30 p.m. The matchup should be the toughest test of the season so far for Wright and company. 

Villanova has won the only other matchup played between the two schools. The winner of the contest on Thursday night will play the victor of the Georgia Tech/Arkansas game in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship game the following day.