Defense, career night from Dylan Ennis help No. 12 Villanova pull away from Lehigh

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While No. 12 Villanova returns most of its rotation from last year’s 29-win team, one of the tasks that head coach Jay Wright is faced with is accounting for the loss of James Bell. As a senior Bell averaged 14.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, earning first team All-Big East honors. One player, despite the fact that his style of play is different than that of Bell’s, poised to step into that starting role is junior Dylan Ennis.

And in his first start at Villanova, Ennis produced a career-best performance in the Wildcats’ 77-66 victory over Lehigh at the new PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Ennis scored 19 points, his high as a Wildcat, while also dishing out five assists in the victory. As a team Villanova didn’t shoot all that well from the field or from three, shooting 38 percent from the field and 8-for-33 from beyond the arc.

The poor shooting and defensive issues resulted in Lehigh having Villanova on upset alert for the first thirty minutes of the of the game. But Wright’s Wildcats were able to take things up a notch defensively to take the lead, ultimately pulling away for the 11-point win. Lehigh shot 54.9% from the field but turned the ball over 23 times, with 13 of those miscues coming in the second half.

Villanova scored 19 points off of those 13 turnovers, and their decisive advantages in points off turnovers (31-4) and second-chance points (21-3) proved to be too much for the Mountain Hawks to overcome. In spite of the poor shooting four starters scored in double figures for Villanova, with Ryan Arcidiacono adding 16 points, JayVaughn Pinkston 11 and Darrun Hilliard ten.

Those three are all expected to vie for All-Big East (and Big East POY) honors this season, but Ennis wasn’t held in similar esteem in the preseason all-conference selections. Yet even with that being the case Villanova will need to versatile guard’s contributions, and Friday night Ennis’ play was one of the key reasons why the Wildcats were able to hold off Lehigh.