The Wildcats struggled mightily early, as the Panthers had their eyes on an upset. With Villanova struggling from deep, Milwaukee found itself leading for much of the first half before nine straight points by the Wildcats to close out the half sent Villanova to the break with a 27-23 lead.
“Their defense was outstanding. I thought our patience and our defense got us through the first half until we could hit some shots and get some stops and get out in transition the second half,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright.
As time wore on, Villanova would begin to pull away, winning in the end by a score of 73-53. While the Wildcats won by 20 in the end, the game was much closer than the score indicates, and they will need to improve their play if they hope to make a run in the tournament.
“When your shot's not falling, you've got to do other things. You've got to rebound. You've got to get stops. You've got to get steals. You've got to get assists. You've got to just affect the game,” said James Bell. “But you're going to have good nights, you're going to have bad nights as a shooter.”
Hilliard led five Wildcats in double figure scoring, as he finished with 16 points. JayVaughn Pinkston finished with 13 and James Bell with 12, while Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins added 11 apiece off the bench in the win.
“Darrun was the only guy that could get through their initial defense. He had some tough shots in the lane. So that was big for us,” Wright said. “I mean, we were struggling. We were really struggling, and he got us going. “
The win sets up a matchup between former Big East foes Villanova and Connecticut in the third round on Saturday, as the Huskies defeated Saint Joseph’s in overtime to advance.
“They're a great team, well coached, and like you said, we're pretty familiar with them,” said Bell. “They're not in our league anymore, but we played against them a number of times.”
By: Kyle Babcock
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