By JOSH VERLIN
Special to ZAGSBLOG
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Jay Wright’s team got the big win it so desperately needed on Tuesday night when Villanova beat St. Joseph’s in the annual “Holy War,” 65-61, at the Pavilion.
The Wildcats scored the last nine points of the game in front of a roaring home crowd, beating the Hawks to improve their record to 6-4 but more importantly giving a young team a big emotional boost. James Bell and JayVaughn Pinkston scored 12 points apiece for the Wildcats.
Before the game, however, Villanova’s coach was trying to downplay the significance of the game against their biggest non-conference rival.
“I really spent a lot of time talking with the guys that we gotta look at this as the next game because we just have so much to learn,” Wright said. “We gotta keep a progression of just getting better and better and better so we didn’t really look at it that way.”
“When it’s over? Yes it was a nice win, a big win, and we’re gonna learn a lot from it.”
Villanova’s fanbase has found themselves in unfamiliar territory lately after a string of seven consecutive NCAA tournament berths under Wright was snapped by a 13-19 year in 2011-12.
A much younger team this season has had some growing pains of their own, losing by 18 at home to Columbia — picked to finish third in the Ivy League — and 15 to city rival Temple, also in front of a friendly crowd at the on-campus Pavilion.
However, this is a far cry from the teams led by Scottie Reynolds and Allan Ray that made runs deep into March and April.
Of the nine players in Wright’s regular rotation, five are sophomores or freshman–and they’re still getting over the early departures of Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek.
Freshmen Ryan Arcidiacono (12.3 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Daniel Ochefu (2.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg) have shown promise, but it’s going to be a year of growing pains — and some pleasures — for Villanova.
“I know what fans want, and fans deserve it,” Wright said, referring to the Final Four run in 2009 and Sweet Sixteen appearances in ’08 and ’05. “We’re on a different path, man. We got a lot of work to do and we can’t get too high, too low after games this early in the season.”
**For Josh’s game story for CityofBasketballlove.com, click here.