‘Cats cruise to victory in season opener



Frank Scicchitano

Friday night’s season opener was packed with storylines as Villanova began its highly anticipated 2015-16 season with a 91-54 blowout over Fairleigh Dickinson.

Every eye in the Pavilion was fixed on freshman guard Jalen Brunson, who was playing his first regular season game for the Wildcats. The four-star recruit jumped right into the starting lineup and got his Villanova career rolling with a memorable performance.

Brunson broke into the scoring column in the middle of the first half by making a pair of free throws. From there, he would go on to finish with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting with four assists and a pair of rebounds.

“I like that he knows how to make people better and still be aggressive,” Head Coach Jay Wright said.

Brunson appeared confident and comfortable facilitating a Villanova offense that shot 46 percent from the field and had just four turnovers from its starting five.

“I really feel like my teammates do a lot for me,” Brunson said. “So if I can get the ball and get them shots and get them going, it’s going to open up the floor for everybody else.”

The Wildcats took an early 9-0 lead early in the game and never looked back. At halftime, they were ahead 50-22 and would eventually stretch the margin greater than 40 points in the second half.

Senior forward Daniel Ochefu anchored the Wildcats’ defense and was also the team’s leading scorer with 16 points. He shot 7-of-10 from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds on his way to an impressive double-double.

“It’s not that easy when you’re the biggest guy and you’re playing against a quick team like that,” Wright said of his big man’s ability to control the boards. “Rebounding isn’t just size, it’s quickness to the ball and they were smaller and quicker.”

Ochefu’s dominance in the rebounding department is nothing new for the Wildcats, but it is his improved offensive presence that is most beneficial to Villanova. He looked more comfortable than ever getting the ball down low and finishing contested dunks and layups.

Another Wildcat that displayed offensive improvement was junior forward Kris Jenkins. Known more as a three-point shooter early in his Villanova career, Jenkins showed off a larger arsenal of offensive moves by driving into the paint and pulling up for mid-range jump shots. That being said, he still scored nine of his 14 points from 3-point range and grabbed seven rebounds for the ’Cats.

Junior forward Josh Hart and senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono finished with 10 and 12 points respectively as all five Villanova starters scored in double digits.

Fairleigh Dickinson’s Darian Anderson was the Knight’s brightest spot on an otherwise dull night. The sophomore guard led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-16 from the field, including an excellent 5-of-8 mark from 3-point range.

Anderson is the younger brother of former Villanova forward Dwayne Anderson, one of the key players on Villanova’s 2009 Final Four team.

After their strong start, the Wildcats will host Nebraska on Tuesday night in the Pavilion. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.