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No. 6 Villanova routs Seton Hall for seventh straight win

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VILLANOVA, Pa. — Seton Hall had taken the last two meetings with Villanova thanks to some staunch perimeter defense.

Between last year’s Big East Tournament quarterfinal and an earlier regular-season matchup back in January, the Pirates had held the Wildcats to just above 20 percent from beyond the arc, a dangerous number for a team that thrives off the long-range shot.

Doing so a third time in a row proved to be an impossible task. Villanova dropped a dozen triples on Seton Hall in the rematch on Monday night, running away with an 80-54 victory.

The sixth-ranked Wildcats, who earned their seventh win in a row Monday, lost 66-61 in overtime to the Pirates on Jan. 3.

“I think we played harder, I thought we defended better,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Much more focused defensively today.”

After a 16-point halftime lead was trimmed to 10 in the first six minutes of the second half, Villanova used the long ball to pull away for good. A 3-pointer by sophomore forward Kris Jenkins extended the lead to 14, one by junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono made it 17, and a few minutes later, one by freshman guard Phil Booth made it a 66-41 game with 7:16 remaining and put the game out of reach.

After shooting just 9-for-43 (20.6 percent) from 3-point range in losses to Seton Hall in last year’s Big East quarterfinals and last month, the Wildcats finished 12-for-26 (46.2 percent) in the win, with six different players connecting from beyond the arc.

“I think we were just aggressive on the catch-and-shoot, and we just had good spacing throughout the game,” Arcidiacono said. “We didn’t change anything up.”

Seton Hall coach Kevin Williard saw it boiling down to one simple fact.

“We played here,” he said. “They’ve done this to everybody. I think Georgetown was down 37 at one point. … They are tough at home.”

Villanova guard Darrun Hilliard led the way with 18 points, as the senior shot 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Four other Wildcats scored in double figures, including Arcidiacono, whose 10 points made him the 60th Villanova player to reach 1,000 in a career.

Freshman guard Isaiah Whitehead had 15 points for the Pirates. Junior guard Sterling Gibbs added 12 before getting ejected for elbowing Arcidiacono in the head on a loose ball with 4:38 remaining.

“I didn’t see the play, so I can’t comment,” Willard said. “We’ll review it, I’m sure the league will review it, and then we’ll go from there.”

The loss continued a free-fall for the Pirates (15-11, 5-9 Big East) since they were 12-2 and ranked No. 19 in the country after the win over Villanova. Seton Hall took its fifth defeat in a row and eighth in 10 games.

“There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on, a lot of talk going on. … At the end of the day, this is a young basketball team that’s going through the ringers of the Big East for the first time,” Willard said. “There’s no chaos outside the program.”

Villanova (24-2, 11-2) is unbeaten since a 78-58 loss to Georgetown on Jan. 19. The Wildcats hold a two-game advantage in the conference standings with five games left in the regular season.

Villanova led early, but a 9-0 Seton Hall run cut the lead to one point. The Wildcats responded with a 12-0 run that ended with them up 26-13.

Strong defense keyed Villanova’s surge, as Seton Hall missed eight consecutive shots during the stretch. The Pirates shot just 26.7 percent (8-for-30) from the floor in the opening minutes, while Villanova hit 46.2 percent (12-for-26) to take a 36-20 lead at the half.

NOTES: Seton Hall sophomore PG Jaren Sina abruptly left the program last week. The New Jersey native had started 23 of 24 games for the Pirates this season, averaging 7.0 points. … The Pirates also were without the services of senior F Brandon Mobley (knee). Freshman F Desi Rodriguez earned his second career start. … Villanova senior SG Darrun Hilliard was coming off a career-high, 31-point performance against Butler, including the game-winning 3-pointer in a 68-65 road win. His eight 3-pointers tied a Villanova record set by Allan Ray in November 2005 vs. Lehigh. … Villanova won its 25th consecutive game at its on-campus Pavilion,

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