In a tough Top-15 match-up, the Wildcats escaped an electric Mackey Center in West Lafayette, Indiana with a 79-76 victory over Purdue. It wasn't pretty but it counts.
Heading into the game, the question was whether Villanova could be effective against Purdue’s redwoods. Villanova was relentless in the first half, eschewing their traditional bombs-away approach for one set on getting Purdue into foul trouble early. Isaac Haas, 7’2, picked up three quick fouls and rode the pine for most of the first half.
Josh Hart was clinical, slicing into the paint, finishing off of both feet, with both hands, and seemingly finding the bucket on every possession. Kris Jenkins struggled to find a rhythm offensively and Jalen Brunson seemed uncharacteristically tight with three first half turnovers. Villanova ended the half with only four assists.
With a little over a second left in the first half, Purdue advanced the ball to half court where P.J. Thompson threw up a Hail Mary that banked in to tie the game at the half.
The second half started much like the first with Josh Hart skipping into the lane for two nearly identical layups in the span of 16 seconds. With Purdue’s bigs in foul trouble, Villanova took advantage, spreading the floor and creating shots off the dribble. The ‘Cats went 7 for 7 from the field to start the second half.
However, the ‘Cats soon went cold and found themselves in foul trouble early, tallying 5 fouls just 6 minutes into the half. Purdue fed the ball to the paint and ‘Nova, looking Lilliputian, struggled not to foul as they hung on for dear life. ‘Nova caught a break when Swanigan picked up his fourth personal (and second offensive foul) with ten minutes left in the game. Overall, foul trouble was a major factor in this game with the refs calling a close (read: soft) game from tip to whistle.
Swanigan was the problem we knew he’d be, putting up 20 points on 8-13, including 2-3 from deep. In the second half, Haas stayed out of foul trouble and was instrumental for the Boilermakers down the stretch finishing with 22 points on 8-10 from the field.
Eric Paschall had a frustrating night that began with him picking up three fouls in in about a minute and a half of playing time in the first half. Undersized, Villanova was forced to slot Paschall and Jenkins down low most of the night. The effort was there, with Paschall going toe to toe with Isaac Haas when Darryl Reynolds found himself in foul trouble, but Paschall fouled out of the game with about two minutes left having posted 11 points during his limited minutes.
Jalen Brunson hit two big free throws to put the 'Cats up three. Purdue's last gasp careened off the side of the backboard and 'Nova will head south 2-0 on the year with a quality win against a ranked team. "I know they're (Purdue) going to get a lot better," said coach Jay Wright, "down the road this is going to be a hellvua win."
Josh Hart led the scoring for Villanova with 24 points and added three rebounds. Reynolds pulled down eight rebounds while putting up 12 points. Brunson added 10 to the scoresheet while Jenkins ended with 8 on 3-12 from the floor.
The Wildcats shot 48.2% from the field and 41.2% from deep, while committing 21 fouls and 11 turnovers.
Villanova returns to action Thursday afternoon for a matinee tip against the Western Michigan Broncos in the first game of the Charleston Classic. The game will be on Charleston local public access. (Just kidding. ESPN2)