BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Coach Jay Wright knew all too well. UNC Asheville of the Big South was a young team and as conference champion, one capable of inflicting damage. The challenging part of coaching is relaying that same information home to your players. In that context, Wright had helping hands in seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu.
“They told our players constantly that Asheville is a talented team” Wright said of his senior leaders following Villanova’s 86-56 victory in the opening round of the NCAA at Barclays Center. “They told our kids ‘you don’t bring your ‘A’ game especially this time of year,’ you are going home.”
Villanova held a 26-22 lead with four remaining minutes of the opening half in what was shaping to be a competitive contest. The Wildcats then went on a 14-4 run, highlighted by Arcidiacono’s buzzer beater to lead 40-26 at the half.
“I thought we needed to play a near perfect game,” UNC Asheville coach Nick McDevitt said. “Obviously we didn’t.”
Ochefu scored a game-high 17 points, eight over his average. “Their (Asheville) defense is perimeter-oriented,” Wright said. “So they went one-on-one in the post and Daniel took advantage.”
Arcidiacono added 14 points for Villanova, which buried 13 three-pointers en route to a 57.8 percent shooting effort. Dylan Smith led the Bulldogs with 14 points.
UNC Asheville closes the books on a 22-12 conference championship season. Villanova improved to 30-5 to await the winner of Iowa-Temple.
“That (Asheville) team starts two freshmen and two sophomores,” Wright noted. “They may be young but they are a tough team. You have to be ready to play them.”
On this afternoon, Villanova was ready, and victorious.