Villanova rides Ochefu to rout of UNC Asheville

NEW YORK - The 2015-16 statistics from UNC-Asheville indicated that Villanova might have a difficult time making three-point baskets Friday in its opening-round game of the NCAA South Regional.

But the second-seeded Wildcats didn't appear to have much of a problem with hitting long-distance baskets at all, and they have Daniel Ochefu - a 6-foot-11 center who tried only one three-point shot the entire season - to thank in large part for it.

With Ochefu, showing no effects of the sprained right ankle that hampered him in last week's Big East tournament, attracting all the attention from the No. 15 Bulldogs on defense, the Wildcats splashed 13 three-pointers and rolled to an 86-56 victory at the Barclays Center.

The Wildcats (30-5) advanced to Sunday's second-round game against Iowa, trying to end a run of three consecutive defeats in the round two as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed - two in the last two years.

Ochefu finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots, and led a defensive effort that held the Bulldogs (22-12) to 30.6 shooting in the second half and 36.8 percent overall. But coach Jay Wright gave him credit for the Cats' success from three-point range against a team that led the nation defending the trey.

"Really, it was Daniel," Wright said. "In their conference [Big South], they don't play as many people in. They can guard guys one-on-one inside and then they get out on three-point shooting. They did a good job on him early and we weren't really hitting threes. They were doing what they do. But when Daniel got it going, they had to come after Daniel."

The Wildcats were up four late in the first half before they started to take control of the game. They knocked down four three-point baskets in the final 2 minutes, 35 seconds in a 12-2 run that gave them a 40-26 lead. The run started when Ryan Arcidiacono missed a three, got his own rebound and kicked it out to Mikal Bridges for a second-chance trey.

Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson followed with triples on back-to-back trips. Then after the Cats forced a shot-clock violation against UNCA with 4.9 seconds left, Arcidiacono took an inbounds pass in full stride, dribbled to the right of the key and sank a three at the buzzer.

"We were just catching and shooting, being aggressive against their zone," said Arcidiacono, who had four threes and 14 points. "I think we were able to get in the lane and kick out for a couple of open threes, and we just ran a good play at the end of the half that we run every single day" in practice.

Ochefu, whom Wright said was confused by the Bulldogs' switching defenses in the first half, found the basket early and often in the second half against the smaller Bulldogs. He scored four of his team's first eight field goals as the lead got to 18 and kept growing. Ochefu finished 7 of 9.

The Wildcats went on to shoot 72 percent in the second half, and 57.9 percent for the game - 46.4 percent from three. Their defense held the Bulldogs without a point for 4:53 and to one field goal in a span of 8:21 in the second half.

Wright gave the credit to his seniors, Arcidiacono and Ochefu.

"That UNC-Asheville team is very, very good, and these two have been through a lot of games," he said. "They know that kind of team can beat you and they just stayed on our guys about the details - preparation when we were watching film, telling them how important everything was. It's because of those two that we really played well."

The Bulldogs, who played six men for much of the game, were led by freshman Dylan Smith with 14 points.

jjuliano@phillynews.com

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