No. 7 Villanova overcomes slow start to rout NJIT 92-67

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Despite losing his cool in the first half and seeing his team fall behind to the only Division I squad without a conference, Villanova head coach Jay Wright was perfectly calm at halftime.

He just knew he had to adjust the game plan. And he knew his guys would deliver.

Fueled by six players scoring in double figures and 54 percent shooting from the field, No. 7 Villanova overcame a seven-point second-half deficit to survive an early upset scare with a 92-67 win over NJIT on Tuesday.

Dylan Ennis scored 17 points, Ryan Arcidiacono matched a season high with 16, and Daniel Ochefu added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats (12-0), who remained perfect on the season to match their second best start in program history.

Four players hit double figures for NJIT (5-8), which stunned Michigan earlier this month and looked prime to pull off its second major upset of the season after shooting a blistering 8 for 13 from 3-point range in the first half.

"That first half was a recipe for an upset," Wright said. "That was exactly how they beat Michigan. And we came ready to play, we really did. But the way we tried to play them early, we did not have a good concept, pressing them and opening the floor up on them. They're very well coached, a very good team and they play a style that can upset teams that are bigger than them."

After trailing by seven early in the second half, Villanova reeled off a 20-3 run to take a 61-51 lead with 10:30 remaining. Arcidiacono scored seven points in the stretch to hit double figures in scoring for the first time in nine games.

Arcidiacono, the team's point guard and leader, said he never got nervous about the deficit because he was confident the Wildcats would start to limit the good 3-point looks the Highlanders got in the first half by playing more composed defensively.

"Honestly, I was just like, 'All right, we've just got to pick it up,'" he said. "We've done it before. We've been here before. We just had to have a sense of urgency we didn't have in the first half."

Freshman Phil Booth scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half to help Villanova outscore NJIT, 51-23, after the break and erase the drama that existed before halftime.


NJIT: Highlanders guard Ky Howard, who finished with 11 assists, saw a familiar face when he glanced at the Villanova sideline. His brother, Ashley, is an assistant coach for the Wildcats. . The Highlanders have never beaten a Big East team in 20 tries. They had only played Villanova once before, dropping a 70-60 decision in 2012-13.

Villanova: Despite trailing by three at halftime, the Wildcats shot 52 percent from the field and only committed three turnovers in the first 20 minutes. ... Before missing Tuesday's contest, Hilliard had played in 80 consecutive games dating back to his freshman season.


Jay Wright believes NJIT should be invited into a conference, and he believes it should happen soon.

"I said to (the coaches) that they better get into a league quick because no one is gonna play them soon," Wright said. "They're so good. I think they'd be great to bring into a league. They'd bring in the Newark market, they're really well-coached, a good team, a good academic school. A league should want them."

NJIT, the only Division I independent, was part of the Great West before it disbanded in 2013. The university is currently working on building a new facility to be more attractive to leagues.

"We've gotten to the point where we're pretty competitive," Engles said. "We just need to be in a league to continue the progress. If we're not going to be in a league, it's just hard to maintain."


Don't expect Darrun Hilliard to miss any more games following the Christmas break.

Wright said the Wildcats' leading scorer was feeling "much better" and that the team simply "erred on the side of safety" by holding him out of Tuesday's contest.


NJIT plays at Lafayette on Sunday.

Villanova opens Big East play by hosting Butler next Wednesday.

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