’Cats throttle Blue Hens at Wells Fargo Center

Greg Habeeb

The Wildcats’ up-and-down performances through the first three games of the season had raised some concerns among the Villanova faithful, who had high hopes for the team entering the season. 

’Nova has since assuaged those worries, following up a terrific performance in the Progressive Legends Classic  with a 78-47 dismantling of the Delaware Blue Hens at the Wells Fargo Center last Sunday afternoon.

Junior forward Daniel Ochefu led the way for Villanova, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, six rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block. He was one of five Wildcats to put up double figures.

Ochefu was everywhere in his 24 minutes of action, unleashing an array of dunks, crafty layups and jump hooks from the low post.

He attempted nine shots in the first half alone, more than he had attempted in any game this season, and finished the game with 11 shots.  

He also flashed some agility on the perimeter, picking off a pass that never crossed the three point line early in second half. 

Wildcats Head Coach Jay Wright indicated that Ochefu’s improvement this season has been a result of serious dedication to his craft.

“[Coming out of high school] there were a lot of other big guys we were looking at, but he was the one we really wanted because of that work ethic,” he said. “Since he’s gotten here it’s remained the same.

“It’s really nice when you see someone do that and it pays off for him.” 

Ochefu echoed his coach’s statements.

“Since I’ve gotten to Villanova I’ve definitely made a lot of big strides, offensively, defensively and just as a person as well,” he said. 

Sophomore guard Josh Hart also contributed with his usual high energy play off the bench. The Silver Spring, Md. native added nine points, three rebounds and three assists to go along with his other numerous hustle plays, which do not show up on a box score.  

Hart’s Energizer Bunny-like nature was on display with 4:06 remaining in the first half, when he leaped over several Delaware players for an offensive board before kicking the ball out to senior guard Dylan Ennis, who drained the wide-open 3-pointer.

Delaware looked to slow Villanova’s dynamic offense by settling into a 2-3 zone and forcing the Wildcats to shoot from long range. 

’Nova obliged, heaving up 32 shots from behind the arc. However they also mixed in plenty of post-up opportunities for Ochefu and senior forward JayVaughn Pinkston. 

“I like how we’re getting an inside-out game going,” Wright said.

The Wildcats were able to use that offensive strategy to pick the zone apart with passing. ’Nova finished with 21 assists, 12 more than the Blue Hens. 

Villanova got off to red hot starts in both halves, jumping out to a 15-4 lead with 11:55 remaining in the first half while also going on a 10-2 run to start the second half. 

The Wildcats were able to stifle the Delaware offense in the game’s initial stages, limiting the Blue Hens to 2-13 shooting in the first eight minutes.  

Delaware would not find the range all afternoon, shooting only 29.5 percent from the field and converting on only seven of their 25 3-point attempts. 

No player was more indicative of the Blue Hens’ offensive struggles than guard sophomore guard Camzon Hayes. 

Hayes came into the game averaging 16.5 points per game on 31 percent shooting. 

While he managed to muster 17 points to lead all Delaware scorers, he did so on an inefficient 6-21 shooting performance, including nine missed three pointers. 

Wright was pleased with his team’s defensive effort on Delaware’s top scorer.

“There are certain guys that are capable of going off and then you can’t stop them,” he said. “That was our goal with him, and I think we did a good job.” 

The Wildcats scored the first basket of the game, an Ochefu jumper, and never looked back, leading from that moment until the final buzzer. 

The Blue Hens were never able to recover from their early shooting woes, though they were able to cut the Wildcats’ lead to five with 5:50 left in the first half following a floater by freshman guard Kory Holden.

The Wildcats responded to Delaware’s 8-2 run by dumping the ball in the post to Ochefu. The Chef served up back to back layups, including a nifty reverse to kick the Wildcat’s offense back in gear. 

Ochefu’s buckets were part of a 17-4 Wildcats run to close out the half. 

The Wildcats continued their dominance into the second half, closing out the game with a 13-point advantage in the period. 

Up next for Villanova is Big Five rival La Salle on the Explorers’ home court, a game which Wright acknowledged both he and his team are greatly anticipating.

“It’s Big Five, man,” Wright said. “I know what it’s gonna be, we all know what it’s gonna be. We love it and it makes us stronger through the year.”