Friday, November 25, 2011

Villanova downs UC Riverside

ANAHEIM, Cal. – In its first trip to the West Coast since 2003, Villanova (4-0 overall, 0-0 BIG EAST) relied on stout defense and the offensive skill of juniors Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou to defeat UC Riverside (1-3 overall, 0-0 Big West) 71-46 in the first round of the 76 Classic.

It was Villanova’s first game played on Thanksgiving Day since the Wildcats defeated George Mason at the 2007 Old Spice Classic.

Villanova advances to meet Saint Louis Friday at 2:30 p.m. eastern time in the semifinals of this event. The Billikens downed Boston College 62-51 in the first game here today at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Wayns scored 19 of his 23 points after halftime while Yarou delivered his third double-double in four games with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The native of Benin also had three steals.

“That was a good start to this tournament for us,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “We have struggled with quick guards at times and I just told Coach (Jim) Woolridge that they really did a good job with their game plan. I thought Mouph was really effective inside in the first half and Maalik kind of took over in the second half.”

The first 20 minutes were dominated by defense. UC Riverside built a 9-3 advantage in the first 4:20 but the Wildcats slowly battled their way back.

“They did a good job of switching on ball screens early,” stated Wright. “We talked about having to work harder getting over ball screens and switches.”

Yarou keyed a surge midway through the half that gave Villanova the lead, highlighted by a steal and length of the court drive for a basket.

“We were having a tough time scoring early,” said Wright, “and to have someone like (Mouph) who we can go inside to and get easy baskets, that’s big for us. That got us going. That is an invaluable weapon for us.”

“I really thought the game didn’t change on offense, but on defense,” Yarou added. “I got a block and took a charge and my teammates did a good job of defending. Everyone did a good job of stepping up on defense.”

The Cats’ used a 20-2 run to end the half to build a 32-16 advantage at intermission, despite shooting just .333 from the field. A large part of the lead was built at the free throw line, where Villanova sank 12-of-14 in the first 20 minutes.

Yarou paced Villanova in first half scoring with nine points and also added six rebounds. Freshman Darrun Hilliard contributed seven points and two rebounds while Elliott Berry led the Highlanders with seven points and four caroms.

In the second half, junior Maalik Wayns, who tallied four first half points, helped spark the Wildcats’ offense, scoring ten points in the first 10 minutes of the period. With 6:42 to play in the contest, Villanova owned a 60-38 lead and Wayns had 15 of their 28 points in the second half.

The final count was 71-46. Hilliard (12 points) and James Bell (12 points) joined Wayns and Yarou as double digit scorers for VU.

“We did a little bit better job today with the lead than we have before,” stated Wright. “We had a couple of games where we had a lead at halftime and came out and didn’t really build on it. Today we came out at the start of the second half great. That really showed me something.”

The Wildcats will face St. Louis for only the second time on Friday, with an 11:30 a.m. local tipoff.

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