No. 11 Villanova beats Fairleigh Dickinson 91-54
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Villanova coach Jay Wright is quite impressed by his new backcourt combination of Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson.
Brunson, a freshman, had 12 points and four assists in his debut, and Arcidiacono, a senior, also netted 12 points as No. 11 Villanova opened with a 91-54 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday night.
''It's one thing to make our players better and it's one thing to be a great scorer and be aggressive,'' Wright said, ''but to have a guy (Arcidiacono) who can do both and now to have two guys who can do both. ... It's pretty cool.''
Brunson, from Lincolnshire, Illinois, took over the starting point guard spot from Arcidiacono, who is the reigning co-Big East Player of the Year. Brunson showed why Wright put the freshman in the starting lineup, displaying deft passing, excellent long-range shooting and an ability to finish from close range. He was 4 of 6 from the field, including 2 for 4 from 3-point range.
''I like that he knows how to make people better and still be aggressive offensively,'' Wright said.
Wright downplayed the change in role for Arcidiacono.
''We don't refer to them as point guards,'' Wright said. ''We just refer to them as Villanova guards.''
Arcidiacono and Brunson, roommates on the road, have developed an on-court chemistry that begins away from the hardwood.
''We try to be on the same page all of the time,'' Brunson said. ''On the court we trust each other.''
Daniel Ochefu had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Kris Jenkins contributed 14 points for the Wildcats, who scored the first nine points and never were threatened.
''Villanova is going to do that to a lot of teams if they play like they did tonight,'' Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda said. ''They have good players that play the right way.''
Darian Anderson scored 21 points for the Knights.
Brunson had a team-high nine first-half points to lead the Wildcats in a dominant opening 20 minutes. Brunson's floating layup with 2 seconds remaining before intermission gave Villanova its biggest lead, 50-22.
The Wildcats cruised in the second half and led by 41 points on Jenkins' 3-pointer that made it 80-39 with 7:24 remaining. Villanova's advantage grew to as many as 44 points after halftime.
''I liked the way we started,'' Wright said. ''I like that we kept our intensity.''
Villanova made it 27 straight victories at the Pavilion, its on-campus home. Friday's game was the first of 13 regular-season contests at the Pavilion. Villanova also uses the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Philadelphia 76ers, for some home games.
70 FOR THE WIN
The Wildcats also won their 31st consecutive game when scoring 70 or more points. They were 25-0 last season when reaching 70.
HAPPY TO BE HERE
Herenda said Friday's experience, as painful as it was, will benefit the Knights in Northeast Conference play.
''This was a culture shock to our guys, but a good educational experience,'' he said. ''It hurts now and it hurt all night, but these games help.''
FDU: Anderson, a sophomore guard, is the younger brother of former Villanova standout Dwayne Anderson, who helped lead the Wildcats to the 2009 Final Four. ... Dwayne Lee, who helped nearby St. Joseph's reach No. 1 in the AP poll on its way to reaching the Elite Eight in 2004, is an assistant coach. ... The Knights were 8-21 last season.
Villanova: Brunson's dad, Rick, who played collegiately at nearby Temple, was in attendance. ... Sitting next to each other courtside were former Villanova greats Kerry Kittles and Alvin Williams. ... The Wildcats have been ranked in the AP Top 25 for 36 straight weeks, dating to December 2013. ... Villanova improved to 4-0 in the series and 14-1 in season openers under Wright.
Villanova: hosts Nebraska on Tuesday night in the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games.
FDU: hosts FDU-Florham on Monday night.