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Lafayette vs. Villanova: Wildcats Crush Leopards 88-48 in Season Opener

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The Wildcats start 2016-17 strong with a victory against Lafayette.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since April 4th, the Villanova Wildcats played in a game that counted and dominated Lafayette 88-48.

"I believe it's [moving on from the championship] is pretty easy to do because we have a team that's humble and hungry and we're looking forward to our next game come Monday. I think the coaching staff has a done a great job of keeping us humble, of keeping us focused on the task at hand," senior forward Kris Jenkins said.

"I feel personally playing a game is probably the best thing we could do to get past last season," Wright added, "I really feel a difference now that we're a game in, we played somebody, it's a new season."

Kris Jenkins started the scoring with a lay-up, and the 'Cats were off and running from there. Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo were the first two off the bench, coming in for Darryl Reynolds and Jalen Brunson, leaving a line-up on the floor with Bridges as the tallest guy.

The Villanova defense was suffocating, blocking two shots and coming up with four steals in the first 10 minutes of play. They held the Leopards scoreless for about seven minutes and had a 36-11 lead by the under eight timeout of the first half. With five minutes left in the half the 'Cats were 6-15 from three, good for 40%, led by Jenkins with three.

The Wildcats went into halftime with a 49-17 lead, shooting 56% from the field and 36% from deep. Kris Jenkins had 13, leading the 'Cats, followed by Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges with 11. Bridges also led in rebounds and assists with eight and three respectively.

The Villanova defense held Lafayette to only 22% shooting in the first half and forced 10 turnovers. 5'11" guard Nick Linder led the Leopards in scoring at the half with seven points but was 2-7 from the field.

"They're a terrific basketball team, obviously they showed it today," Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon said. "When you come in this kind of an environment, with a fairly young team, the bright lights and all we really didn't execute the way we needed to."

The second half was more of the same for Villanova, the 'Cats offensive onslaught continued and the defense was just as good.

Tim Delany checked in for the first time with 8:15 left in the game, a good sign when it comes to his health. Dylan Painter logged his first minutes a 'Cat tonight as well. They both scored their first points as Wildcats, Delany hitting a three and Painter making two free throws.

Jalen Brunson led the scoring for Villanova with 17 points including 4-7 shooting from three and added in seven rebounds. Jenkins added 16 points, going 4-10 from deep, and grabbing five boards. Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges were the other Wildcats in double digits tonight, 13 from Hart and 16 from Mikal Bridges. Bridges was 2-4 from deep and added in eight rebounds along with four assists.

Overall, the Wildcats shot 49% from the field and 37% from deep. They held the Leopards to 29% shooting and 19% from three.

In his Villanova debut, Eric Paschall contributed seven points, seven rebounds, two steals, and a block. Coach Wright said of Paschall, "He's going to be good, he's going to be a big part of what we do. He's got to learn the attention to detail, the more minutes we can get him the better. He brings a lot of natural talent and he's going to have to really give us some help up front on the glass."

Villanova returns to action Monday night when they visit Purdue. "That [rebounding] is going to be our next test, we're going to find out. For this team, that's going to be a challenge. We're going to have to rebound as a team. We're not going to play them any bigger," Jay Wright said of the tough test awaiting the 'Cats on Monday.