No. 10 Villanova rolls past La Salle 84-70
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Villanova's latest sensational nonconference victory was tagged with a warning for what's ahead.
''We can still get a whole lot better,'' coach Jay Wright said.
For a team already rolling, that's scary news for the other opponents on the schedule.
Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis each scored 15 points to lead the 10th-ranked Wildcats to an 84-70 win over La Salle on Wednesday night.
Josh Hart and JayVaughn Pinkston each added 12 points for the Wildcats (7-0). Daniel Ochefu had 10 points and a team-best eight rebounds.
The Wildcats shot 50 percent (7 of 14) from 3-point range, dominated from the tip and continued to play like a team intent on making a deep March run.
La Salle went on a brief spurt early in the second half that trimmed the lead to 11. But Ennis pushed back the Explorers with a 3-pointer and he hit another one for a 61-44 lead halfway through the second that pushed Villanova well on its way toward its latest romp.
The Wildcats had wins in back-to-back nights last week against ranked teams Michigan and Virginia Commonwealth to win the Legends Classic. They thumped Delaware on Sunday and kept right on hitting from outside and pounding the paint inside against the Explorers.
Hilliard led the charge early for the Wildcats against their Big 5 rival. The Wildcats, Explorers, Temple, Penn and Saint Joseph's comprise the city series field. The Wildcats have emerged as the class of the city with a 4-0 record last season and an overall Big 5 seven-game winning streak.
But it's not enough for Wright.
''We were scrambling offensively,'' in the first half, Wright said. ''We were not executing.''
The Wildcats could have fooled La Salle. They scored on eight of nine possessions in one stretch and went on a 10-1 run to build a 24-14 lead.
The Wildcats also became 3-point happy after attempting only one over the first 10 minutes. Kris Jenkins and Pinkston went back-to-back and Ennis added one two possessions later for a 33-20 lead.
It wasn't just chucking shots from behind the arc. The Wildcats opened a 47-29 halftime lead by using five steals to spark the offense and the extra pass to account for 13 assists on 18 buckets.
''It wasn't just the guards,'' Hilliard said. ''We threw the ball into the post, they made awesome plays. It wasn't just the guards with the open lanes.''
Jerrell Wright scored 19 points and Khalid Lewis had 17 for the Explorers (4-3).
The Explorers, who made the Sweet 16 in 2013, were taken out early at Gola Arena. They missed seven of their first 10 3-point attempts and had no offensive option early except for Lewis. Lewis was 4 of 7 in the first half while the rest of the Explorers went 5 for 16.
Jordan Price, La Salle's leading scorer at 17.7 points, scored only four in the first half. He finished with 10.
''I couldn't possibly be more disappointed with the first half,'' La Salle coach John Giannini said. ''Besides Lewis making some gutsy plays, I really can't think of anything good that came from that first half.''
Jerrell Wright was whistled for two fast fouls in the first half and only played 3 minutes. He scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and did not pick up another foul in 20 minutes. Wright, a 6-foot-8 senior guard, has been running into early foul trouble. ''I think he must be nervous,'' Giannini said.
Villanova: The Wildcats lost to La Salle in their last visit to Gola Arena in 2012. ... Villanova had a 6-0 November for the second straight year. ... The Wildcats have five steals to none for the Explorers in the first half.
La Salle: The Wildcats were the second-highest ranked team to ever play at Gola Arena. The Explorers upset No. 9 Butler on Jan. 23, 2010. ... La Salle lost only its third nonconference game (21-3) at Gola in the last 24 games. ... The La Salle student section chanted ''Let's Go Sixers!'' as news of Philadelphia's first win of the season spread on social media.
Villanova: Hosts Saint Joseph's on Saturday.
La Salle: Plays Temple on Saturday at the Palestra.