By Harry Allison
As Villanova runs up early-season wins against cupcake victims, a pattern develops:
Opposing coach envy!
Consider East Tennessee State coach Scott Forbes on the Villanova bandwagon.
After watching the Wildcats dismantle his Buccaneers 86-51 in a preliminary round of the NIT Season Tip-Off Friday night at the Pavilion, Forbes couldn’t help but gush about the 11th-ranked team in the country.
“Our guys wanted to play well but they got overwhelmed by a vastly superior team,” Forbes said. “When you can put five guys on the floor that can score at every position then you got a darn good team. I love their team. I love the way they play.”
Daniel Ochefu posted his third straight double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds and Villanova played stifling defense to beat the Buccaneers.
“I’m happy with the wins of course,” Ochefu said. “Just like coach (Jay Wright) said, we have to get better every day with our defense and rebounding. That’s a challenge we’re going to have all season.”
The Wildcats (3-0) blew the game open with a 24-0 run over a span of 8:26 in the first half, helped by nine turnovers by East Tennessee State. It was similar to how the Wildcats played Nebraska on Tuesday, using turnovers to go on a 22-0 run.
Kris Jenkins had 17 points and Phil Booth had 16 points – both career highs. The balanced offense, including hitting 14 3-pointers, was good, but it was the Villanova press that separated the teams.
“Defense is always our No. 1 priority,” said Jenkins. “That’s what we focus on every game. Defense first and rebounding second.”
The Buccaneers (2-1) had topped 100 points in their first two games. But after getting off to a fast start and the score tied at 11 before the first timeout, East Tennessee struggled to get the ball across half court for much of the first half. Once it did, the Bucs weren’t left with much time to set up their offense and were forced into either taking hurried shots or not getting shots off at all.
“We came out in the first five minutes playing hard and being excited and getting to the glass,” Forbes said. “And then bam! They go on a 24-0 run and it’s over.”
With Ryan Arcidiacono (11 points) and John Hart (10 points) in early foul trouble, Booth came off the bench and provided a spark.
“We don’t look at the numbers but we have the shooters to shoot it,” Wright said. “If we have the shot we want the guys to take it. It was one of our better nights. Hart was hot early and Booth came off the bench and hit some. A lot of that came from Daniel running out and setting screens. He did a great job in all aspects of this game.”
T.J. Cromer was the top scorer for East Tennessee State with 12 points.
Ochefu now has 10 career double-doubles.
It was the third straight game Villanova won by 24 points or more and the third straight contest it held its opponent to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.
Arcidiacono and Hart made it five Wildcats in double figures. The team hit 14 of 34 3-pointers for 41 percent.
After being the best 3-point shooting team in the Big East in 2014-15, Villanova struggled from beyond the arc in their first two games (28.8 percent). That changed considerably against the Buccaneers, especially in the second half, with the Wildcats making seven of their first eight 3-pointers.