VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Daniel Ochefu made it OK for once for 3-point happy Villanova to keep clanging shots off the rim.
He cleaned up messes on both ends and showed there is more to the Big East power than just fantastic guards.
Ochefu had 20 points and 18 rebounds in one of the best games for a Villanova big man in years, leading the No. 11 Wildcats to a 72-63 victory over Seton Hall on Wednesday night.
Ochefu, a 6-foot-11, 245-pound forward, made 6 of 13 shots and was 8 of 10 from the free-throw line to help Villanova (13-2, 3-0 Big East) win its fifth straight game.
“Defend and rebound. That’s what gets us through,” Ochefu said.
Ochefu has developed into Villanova’s most reliable shooter, connecting on 18 of 20 field goals in Villanova’s last three wins. He entered the game shooting 66 percent from the field and that’s with a mid-range jumper he’s worked into his arsenal.
Josh Hart had 15 points and 10 rebounds to ease Villanova’s miserable 4-of-22 night from 3-point range.
“I think games like this are good for because we find a way to get out with defense and rebounding,” Ochefu said.
The two-time defending Big East champions are again the team to beat in a stacked conference.
“The Big East is a long way from over,” coach Jay Wright said. “There are lot of good teams in the league.
Isaiah Whitehead led the Pirates (12-3, 2-1) with 20 points, and Khadeen Carrington had 14.
With the Wildcats 3-point game on ice, they missed 18 of their first 20 attempts, Seton Hall cashed in early in the second half and whittled a double-digit deficit down to two. Veer Singh buried a 3 in front of the Seton Hall bench that sent his teammates into a frenzy and made it 42-40.
But the Wildcats don’t lose at home very often, and showed why they have a 35-game winning streak at the Pavilion.
Kris Jenkins missed a mid-range jumper and Hart scooted to the basket untouched for the rebound and bucket to make it 48-41. Ryan Arcidiacono made all three free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt and Nova took an eight-point lead. Ochefu’s layup pushed the lead back to double digits.
“That’s what we expect from Daniel every single day,” Arcidiacono said. “We know any time we can’t make shots, we’re going to make straight-line drives and try to get him an easy basket. He was finishing.”
Whitehead, who had 15 points, had a nasty collision with Hart and held his face as he walked straight to the locker room. He returned a few minutes later, but his output wasn’t enough to keep the Pirates within striking distance of an upset victory.
“We played good defense, then we gave up offensive rebounds,” Carrington said. “Ochefu, the bigs did a good job of battling him. But the guards, we didn’t gave them no help on getting long rebounds. I blame that on us.”
The Wildcats, coming off a 14-point win over unbeaten Xavier, pulled out a win even with awful 3-point shooting. The Wildcats usually go as far as their long game takes them, and faced early exits in March when they shoot bricks.
Against Xavier, the Wildcats made 13 of 25 overall; they missed 28 of 32 against Oklahoma.
Hart hit Nova’s third 3 of the game with 4:09 left for a 63-49 lead and that was enough of a cushion for the Wildcats.
Seton Hall: Seton Hall lost for the 15th straight time at the Pavilion. Its last win was Feb. 26, 1994. … Seton Hall played Villanova for the 108th time, the program’s highest total of games against a single opponent. … Seton Hall is still the only Big East team to beat Villanova in each of the last two seasons. … Derrick Gordon led with 10 rebounds.
Villanova: 76ers coach Brett Brown was at the game. … Ochefu moved into 15th on Villanova’s career rebound list.
Neshaminy High School boys basketball coach Jerry Devine apparently head-butted a referee during a game and has been put on leave. Arcidiacono played for Devine in high school. “Coach Devine is a great guy,” Arcidiacono said. “I was surprised to hear what happened. I texted him that I was thinking of him and how good a person he is.” Arcidiacono’s brother Chris is a sophomore guard at Neshaminy.
“It’s an unfortunate situation but it’s something I’ve never seen from him in the past,” Ryan Arcidiancono said.
Seton Hall hosts Creighton on Saturday.
Villanova plays at No. 18 Butler on Sunday.