Md.-Eastern Shore-Villanova Preview
Though it wasn't easy, Villanova eventually pulled away in its season opener.
The 12th-ranked Wildcats will surely be looking to come out with a much better effort Monday night as they host Maryland Eastern Shore in the opening game of the Legends Classic.
Dylan Ennis had 19 points and fellow junior Ryan Arcidiacono scored 16 as Villanova earned a tougher-than-expected 77-66 victory over Lehigh on Friday. The Wildcats, who missed 11 of their first 13 shots, took a two-point lead into the break and trailed 46-40 with 15:14 left before picking up the pace.
Darrun Hilliard added 10 points on 4-of-18 from the floor as Villanova shot 38.0 percent. He and Arcidiacono went a combined 2 for 16 from beyond the arc.
While the offense wasn't clicking, the Wildcats held a 19-4 edge on the offensive glass and scored 31 points off 23 turnovers.
"It was simply Villanova basketball," Hilliard told the team's official website. "We didn't hit shots and we didn't play how we wanted to play offensively. But we (kept) grinding, we got stops at the end, and we gutted it out. Typical Villanova basketball."
Villanova, which held opponents to a Big East-low 40.5 percent shooting last season, allowed the Mountain Hawks to shoot 54.9 percent.
"We wound up having to play smaller because they were spreading us out," said coach Jay Wright, whose team went 29-5 last season while winning the regular-season conference championship. "We've got a lot of work to do, but we've got a gutty team."
This marks the Wildcats' first matchup against Maryland Eastern Shore, which suffered a season-opening 71-46 loss at Virginia Tech on Friday. Freshman Ryan Andino had 11 points off the bench, but he was the only Hawks player to reach double figures.
Maryland Eastern Shore was limited to 27.7 percent shooting while the Hokies shot 52.2 percent. Guard Devin Martin missed 10 of 14 shots - including seven of eight from 3-point range - as the Hawks went 5 for 22 from long distance.
While Villanova returns four starters from last season, Maryland Eastern Shore is still trying to find its identity after losing its top three scorers from last season's 6-24 squad. Things aren't about to get any easier at the Pavilion, where the Wildcats have compiled a 198-29 record since 1994-95. Villanova won each of its 12 games there last season by an average of 22.3 points.
Maryland Eastern Shore hasn't faced a ranked team since falling 92-60 at No. 11 Cincinnati on Dec. 8, 2012. The Hawks have been outscored by an average of 36.6 points in losing all 11 matchups against Top 25 foes since 2000.
The Wildcats are looking to open 2-0 for the 10th consecutive season. They host Bucknell in the second stage of the Legends Classic regional round Thursday.