Darrun Hilliard on Villanova teammates: 'They saved my life'


Darrun Hilliard on Villanova teammates: 'They saved my life'

When he reflects on his years at Villanova, Darrun Hilliard won’t think about the early NCAA exits or the lack of a Final Four appearance or any of the other unfulfilled dreams.

He’ll think about his teammates, his friends, his brothers.

He’ll think about his personal growth from freshman year to today.

He’ll think about how much his years at Villanova meant to him personally.

“Looking back, coming in as a 17-year-old kid who was mentally unstable, you know?” he said.

“Coming in and finding coach (Jay) Wright and finding players like JayVaughn (Pinkston) and Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) and Daniel (Ochefu) and then Dylan (Ennis) coming in and all these different characters and over the span of my career I was able to kind of break out of my shell and kind of open up to these guys and it just motivated my game.

“It’s more than teammates with these guys. These guys helped me more off the court than on the court.”

Hilliard spoke in the Villanova locker room at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh late Saturday night after Villanova lost as a top-two seed to an opponent seeded seventh or lower for the second straight year and third time in six seasons.

His final game as a Wildcat was a 71-68 loss to NC State in the NCAA Round of 32.

Villanova finished the season 33-3 but failed to advance to the second weekend for the sixth straight year.

“It’s tough,” said Hilliard, who scored 27 points in his final college game, including three deep three-pointers in the final 86 seconds that kept Villanova’s desperate hopes alive.

“These guys have meant so much to me. These guys are my brothers. My everything.

“I grew up being an only child, and I just … these guys have been my safe haven, you could say. Saved my life.

“I just wanted to thank them for everything they did for me. They saved my life. That probably sounds overboard, but it’s true. They really helped me become the person that I am and the man that I am today.”

Hilliard finished his career with 1,511 points, 400 rebounds and 176 steals. On Monday, he was named Big 5 Player of the Year (see story).

He leaves Villanova 18th in career scoring. In his three years as a starter, Villanova went 82-22, including a 62-8 mark the last two years.

As his teammates came over and hugged him, Hilliard spoke of the lessons the younger Wildcats would learn from yet another upset loss on college basketball’s biggest stage.

“I mean, going out like this, it just wasn’t our day,” he said. “God has a higher purpose, and we may not see it now, but I think we’ll see it in the long run.

“I really believe it’s a higher purpose than this. It’s going to teach the young guys how hard it is to get to this point. And how to face adversity.

“I’m sure this will be one of the most pivotal points in everybody’s life, not just on the basketball court. I just think there’s a higher purpose.”

Hilliard has a chance to play in the NBA and will definitely get opportunities to play professionally somewhere.

For now, he said his immediate plans don't involve basketball.

They just involve family. Which is most important to him.

“I might go back to Bethlehem and hang out with my mom,” said Hilliard, who grew up in Bethlehem, biked to Eagles training camp practices as a kid and attended Liberty High -- the same high school as Chuck Bednarik.

“I don’t know. Just get away from basketball. Go eat some McDonald’s or something.

“If I catch an (NCAA Tournament) game I might (watch). But I might just disappear for a little bit and drop off the face of the earth.”

No. 14 Penn State's defense dominates Rutgers

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No. 14 Penn State's defense dominates Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Trace McSorley threw two touchdown passes to tight end Pat Freiermuth and No. 14 Penn State's defense set up two touchdowns with turnovers in a 20-7 victory over Rutgers on Saturday, sending the Scarlet Knights to their 10th straight loss.

McSorley's touchdown passes covered 6 yards in the second quarter and 18 in the fourth as the Nittany Lions (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten, No. 14 CFP) beat Rutgers (1-10, 0-7) for the 12th straight time. Jake Pinegar added field goals of 22 and 19 yards.

The win was No. 30 for McSorley as a starter, making him the winningest quarterback in school history. The senior had been tied with Todd Blackledge (1980-82) and Tony Sacca (1988-91). The two touchdowns increased his total - running and passing - to 101.

Raheem Blacksheer scored on a 2-yard fourth-quarter run for Rutgers to deny Penn State its first shutout in more than a season.

The dominant group for Penn State was its defense, which forced three turnovers, had four sacks and 11 tackles for losses and held Rutgers to 46 yards passing.

Safety Garrett Taylor intercepted a horrible pass by freshman Art Sitkowski late in the second quarter to give the Nittany Lions the ball at the Rutgers 28. Four plays later, McSorley (17 of 37 for 183 yards) found Freiermuth for a 10-3 lead with 2:04 left in the half.

Senior Gio Rescigno replaced Sitkowski (3 of 7 for 18 yards and two interceptions) after the bad decision on the screen pass Penn State read from the start.

A Daniel Joseph recovery of an Isaih Pacheco fumble at the Rutgers 46 late in the third quarter set up the second TD pass early in the fourth for a 20-0 lead.

The Scarlet Knights should have scored in the third quarter. After moving 82 yards on 14 running plays, they ran a fourth-down flea flicker from the 2-yard line and a wide-open Rescigno dropped a soft pass from Trey Sneed, who had lined up outside and took a toss from Blackshear.

The takeaway

This was not an impressive performance by the Nittany Lions, who were hoping to move into a position for a possible New Year's Day bowl game. The offense never got going and the only reason it was no contest was the Penn State defense.

The Scarlet Knights are now facing the prospect of their first one-win season since going 1-11 in Greg Schiano's second season, in 2002. Rutgers was 0-11 in 1997, so this isn't rock bottom. The 10-game losing streak is the longest since losing 11 in a row over the end of the 1998-99 season.

Up next

Penn State: Plays host to Maryland next Saturday and then waits for a bowl bid.

Rutgers: Finishes season at Michigan State next Saturday.

Villanova routed by Michigan in national championship rematch

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Villanova routed by Michigan in national championship rematch

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Charles Matthews set the tone with a slam and celebrated by flexing to the crowd.

Quickly, the rematch turned into a rout.

Matthews scored 19 points, Ignas Brazdeikis had 18 and No. 18 Michigan beat No. 8 Villanova 73-46 Wednesday night in their first meeting since last season's national championship game.

Villanova captured its second title in three years with a 79-62 victory over Michigan in April but was completely overmatched in the second game at its newly renovated Pavilion.

"I don't think when I'm out there," Matthews said, explaining his emotional reaction to a basket less than 90 seconds into the game. "It was a fun, exciting game. I got the dunk and I screamed."

Eric Paschall scored 10 points and Phil Booth had nine for the Wildcats (2-1).

The Wolverines (3-0) jumped ahead early and never let up. They led 10-2 less than five minutes in and expanded the lead to 22-8 on Matthews' jumper midway through the opening half. A 17-3 run followed, giving Michigan a 39-13 lead. Matthews' dunk and consecutive 3-pointers from Isaiah Livers and Jordan Poole highlighted the run.

Matthews capped the impressive first half with a steal and layup to send Michigan to the locker room with a 44-17 lead.

"I'm very impressed with Michigan," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Really like their team, great togetherness, great execution. It's my fault I'm running a lot of guys out there. We're not as organized as we want to be. We're trying to figure out a lineup early in the season. We didn't have the cohesiveness to play a good team like that."

Villanova's frustration was evident after Michigan's Zavier Simpson's flagrant foul led to a brief scuffle with Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree near midcourt with 13 minutes remaining and Michigan leading 52-24.

The Wildcats couldn't make any push in the second half, and fans hit the road early.

"They executed way better than we were prepared to play defense," Booth said.

Neither team looked like the two squads who met in San Antonio seven months ago.

Villanova lost four players who were drafted in the first 33 picks of the NBA draft. AP Player of the Year Jalen Brunson plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Omari Spellman is with the Atlanta Hawks. Mikal Bridges landed in Phoenix after a draft-night trade with the 76ers, and Donte DiVincenzo — who scored 31 points in the title game — is with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Michigan lost three of its top four scorers. Moe Wagner, the star big man, was drafted by the Lakers in the first round and is playing in Germany. Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman graduated.

"They're a young team and they lost a lot of people," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "This is a November win. That's all it is. We have to learn from it, forget it and get ready for our next game."

Impressive freshman
Brazdeikis' teammates love his attitude and confidence on the floor.

"Iggy is like a mean pit bull," Simpson said.

The Finn
Bill Finneran, the Villanova alum who was the lead donor for the school's on-campus court that underwent a $65 million face-lift, was honored at halftime.

"The worst game you're going to see here," Finneran told the crowd.

Big picture
Michigan: Brazdeikis showed he can score against tough competition, performing well against top defender Paschall. Brazdeikis and Matthews give the Wolverines a formidable wing duo going forward.

Villanova: Showed its youth, giving Wright plenty of teaching points. The Wildcats relied on 3s the first two games, taking more shot attempts from beyond the arc than inside. They couldn't get them to fall from long range, going 3 for 15.

Up next
Michigan hosts George Washington on Saturday.

Villanova hosts Furman on Saturday.