PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/12/2017 – The fifth-ranked Villanova Wildcats got off to an impressive start and cruised to a 113 – 77 win over Nicholls State University at the Wells Fargo Center. Mikal Bridges led the way for the Wildcats with a career-high 23 points in 27 minutes of action. He added a team-high tying 6 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, and set another career-mark in blocked shots with 4.
Still, he was most focused on the defensive effort.
“We were playing good defense,” said Bridges about a sequence where he and Omari Spellman blocked three consecutive shots. “It got us fired up, and that’s what we should be fired up on.”
As a team in the opening stanza Villanova shot 59.4% from the field (19 of 32). From deep the Cats made 4 of 11. The shot selection was well balanced as Nova took 21 shots from inside the arc and 11 from outside. Villanova had 13 assists on 19 baskets. Then did not let down in the second half making 56.1% of their shots. For the game Nova assisted 28 times on 42 baskets.
“Their philosophy is to almost let you score, almost, so they can get back” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “It’a hard to play against, so I was impressed how we handled it early, and the energy from Mikal and Donte. I want to keep that energy going.”
The hosts took control of the game with a 19 – 2 run to take a 35 – 11 lead just under 12 minutes into the half.
Six Villanova players scored in double-figures. The last time they accomplished that was last season with a 108 point outburst against St. John’s. Donte DiVincenzo added 20 points to go along with 4 assists and rebounds. Jalen Brunson scored 17 and handed out 5 assists. Phil Booth contributed 12 points, while Eric Paschall had 11 and freshman Collin Gillespie chipped in with 10 points.
Zaquavian Smith led the Colonels with 25 points making 7 of 13 field goal attempts, 6 of 9 from distance. Roddy Peters scored 17 and Tevon Saddler added 15. As a team Nichols, who was an NCAA Tournament participant in 2014, was held to 38.6% shooting. The Villanova defense blocked 13 shots which sets a school record eclipsing the previous mark of 12.
The Wildcats begin the season with a 2 – 0 record and prepare for a Friday night match against Lafayette, coached by former Villanova legend Fran O’Hanlon. The team will Spend Thanksgiving in the Bahamas participating in The Battle For Atlantis with Western Kentucky being the opening round opponent.
The future will depend on the defense.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we have the potential to be a very good defensive team, and you saw some of that tonight,” Wright said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian