VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Heading toward the best record in program history, Villanova coach Jay Wright sees room for improvement.
Darrun Hilliard scored 18 points, Daniel Ochefu had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 6 Villanova cruised to an 80-54 victory over Seton Hall on Monday night.
Dylan Ennis had 12 points and Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston each scored 10 to help the Wildcats (24-2, 11-2 Big East) win their seventh straight game.
“We can get better,” Wright said. “The older guys get that. That’s why this team is fun to coach.”
Isaiah Whitehead led the way with 15 points for Seton Hall (15-11, 5-9), which has lost five straight. Sterling Gibbs had 12 before he was ejected for a flagrant foul in the second half. Replays showed Gibbs hit Arcidiacono in the nose with his forearm. Gibbs later apologized on Twitter:
“Man that’s not who I am. I’m sorry to my family, friends, fans, and team for being an embarrassment. Even more sorry to @RyArch15 .. I let My emotions get the best of me and that wasn’t acceptable at all. I hope you’re alright and I will face any consequences coming.”
Arcidiacono accepted the apology, tweeting: “Emotions sometimes get the best of us. heat of the moment thing. We’re all good. @SterlingGibbs4.”
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard issued a statement after the game.
“I am extremely disappointed in Sterling’s actions tonight,” he said. “Our student-athletes are entrusted to uphold the morals and values of good sportsmanship and personal conduct that we preach to them on a daily basis. Tonight’s incident involved a young man of high character showing poor judgment in the heat of competition. It was regrettable, and we will address the issue.”
Coming off a comeback win at then-No. 18 Butler, the Wildcats led from the start and never let up in avenging a 66-61 overtime loss at Seton Hall on Jan. 3.
“We were aggressive catching and shooting and we had great spacing throughout the game,” Arcidiacono said.
Hilliard shot 6 for 16 two days after scoring a career-high 31 points, including a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left that gave Villanova a 68-65 victory over Butler.
Hilliard got the Wildcats started in the second half with a layup to give them an 18-point lead. But Seton Hall outscored Villanova 16-8 to cut the deficit to 46-36. Kris Jenkins then scored six straight points for the Wildcats on three free throws and a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 52-38.
After Villanova’s Josh Hart fought for a pair of offensive rebounds, Ennis hit a jumper, Arcidiacono made a 3-pointer, Pinkston scored on a layup and Ennis sank two free throws to give the Wildcats a 61-40 lead.
The lead soared to 30 as nine players scored for Villanova. The Wildcats’ relentless defense forced Seton Hall into 32.3 percent shooting (20 for 62).
“We played harder, defended better than last game,” Wright said. “We weren’t sharp defensively last time. We were much more focused.”
The first half was filled with runs. Villanova scored the first seven points before Gibbs hit a 3-pointer 3:34 in. Seton Hall had a 9-0 run, but Villanova answered with a 12-0 spurt to take a 26-13 lead.
Seton Hall missed eight straight 3s before Whitehead knocked one down with 4:04 left in the half. The Wildcats finished the half with six straight points to take a 36-20 lead into the locker room.
“They’re frustrated that they’re losing,” Willard said. “It’s tough to play at a high level with so many young guys.”
Seton Hall: The Pirates are 8-11 since starting the season 7-0. They’re 3-9 since upsetting Villanova last month. That win prevented the Wildcats from the best start in program history. They were 13-0.
Villanova: With five games left until the Big East tournament, the Wildcats are in control of the conference race. They led Butler by 2 1/2 games — pending the Bulldogs’ game at Creighton later Monday night — and own the tiebreaker after sweeping the season series.
Seton Hall visits St. John’s on Saturday.
Villanova visits Marquette on Saturday.
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