VILLANOVA, PA. 12/1/2019 – The Villanova Wildcats started strong jumping out to a twenty-point halftime lead. The La Salle Explorers battled back, but the #22 Wildcats won their first Big Five game of the season 83 – 72 at the Finn. Nova improves to 5 – 2. The Explorers (4 – 3) had their three-game winning streak ended.
“It was a typical Big Five game,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “We played a good first half, then they came out and just took to us in the second half. We hung on. These Big Five games you just try to survive. It’s never pretty. You never know what it’s going to be. You have to try to survive and that’s what that was.”
It was a tale of two halves for the Wildcats. They were good in the first half especially getting the ball to the basket off drives. They shot 15 of 29 in the half and 11 of 20 from inside the arc. Leading 24 – 17 with 8:57 on the clock Nova went on a 12 – 3 run in over three minutes to take control. The lead expanded to 48 – 28 at halftime.
In the second half it was a different story. La Salle gradually chipped away at the lead getting to within 10 one two different occasions. They would get no closer. But the Explorers did force the Wildcats to play further away from the basket than they did early.
“We did a better job of just guarding the ball,” said La Salle Coach Ashley Howard, a former assistant of Jay Wright, about what his team did better in the second half. “In the first half Villanova just drove us and got to the basket at will with minimal resistance. That was my biggest point of emphasis at halftime, guard the ball. That’s what gave us the ability to get stops and get out in transition and chip into that lead a little bit.”
Freshman guard Justin Moore set a career-high in scoring with 25 points to lead the Wildcats. He made 9 of 15 from the floor and 5 of 7 from the line. He was one of three Villanova players who scored in double-digits. Saddiq Bey recorded his first double-double of the year with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Collin Gillespie had 14 points.
Ed Croswell paced La Salle with 14 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double this season. David Beatty scored 12 points.
Wright has said to his teams that Big Five games are tough. Gillespie has been through these games and was ready for how rugged they can be.
“You have to come in physically and mentally prepared to be in a battle,” Gillespie said. “You have to play hard on every possession. You have to learn how to do that for all forty minutes.”
For Moore it was his first, and there were some lessons learned.
“I knew a few things,” said Moore about the Big Five. “I knew La Salle was in it and I know Saint Joe’s is in it. I’m not from this area so I don’t know much. I learned about it today, Coach told us.”
And did his teammates as Moore got a history lesson. Now, he needs to experience it like those who did in the past.
The stretch of city series games for Villanova continues as they host the defending Big Five Champions the University of Pennsylvania Quakers on Wednesday.
La Salle, coming off winning the Gulf Coast Showcase, goes to Drexel next Saturday.
Written By: Glenn Papazian