Wildcats’ Mouphtaou Yarou rejuvenated

Villanova's Mouphtaou Yarou, left, grabs a rebound against Syracuse's DaJuan Coleman as Villanova's Daniel Ochefu, right, defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)

It’s fair to say Mouphtaou Yarou did not play well toward the end of Villanova’s nonconference schedule. In fact, he was becoming a forgotten man, averaging less than 17 minutes over a four-game period while remaining in the starting lineup.

However, the 6-foot-10 senior has been rejuvenated with the start of the Big East season, posting double-doubles in his last two games, including 11 points and 14 rebounds in Saturday’s 72-61 loss to No. 7 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.

“I thought he was a warrior, man. I’m so proud of him,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said after the game.

“This is a tough place to play. It’s a tough team to play against if you’re an inside player. They’re aggressive, they’re long, they’re tough inside. I thought he was a warrior. I was really proud of him. He rebounded and made plays offensively. Defensively he made plays. I thought he was awesome.”

Yarou, who has 15 career double-doubles, is averaging 11.7 rebounds in conference play, compared to 4.0 in his last four non-conference contests. His playing time, which was down in the pre-season as Wright wanted to see freshman Daniel Ochefu on the floor more, has increased to 32 minutes per game in the first three Big East contests.

“Whatever I can do to help this team … I’m the leader,” Yarou said after Saturday’s game. “I’ve got to set the tone. Whatever is going to help us win, I’m going to do it.

“Tomorrow we’re going to go back and practice and get better, watch the film and see what we didn’t do and get better.”

Ochefu, making his second straight start, grabbed five offensive rebounds for the second game in a row and pulled down seven overall, but made just one of six shots, missing a number of close-in attempts.

--Joe Juliano