The Villanova Wildcats controlled this game from start to finish, easily defeating the Nicholl’s State Colonels 113-77. Despite playing in front of a sparse, mid-week crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, the Wildcats put on quite the show as they dominated both ends of the court. Mikal Bridges was the star of the night in every aspect of the game with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists, and 4 blocks.
“It’s something I don’t think about. I just go out there and try to play as hard as I can,” said Bridges after the game. “I take pride in defending. Just trying to get into passing lanes and trying to pressure people. Like coach says, if you defend and rebound and all that, good things happen to you.” When asked about a sequence in which he and Omari Spellman had three blocks in 8 seconds, Bridges added, “We were all fired up on that. That’s what we should be fired up on, the defensive things, not offense.”
In total, six Villanova players would finish with double digit scoring including Donte DiVincenzo who put up 20 points of his own. When asked if they prefer to play against the fast paced man defense they saw tonight or the slower zones they faced earlier, DiVincenzo said “I think a great way to describe us, we can play against both. We practice that every day. Just being able to deal with offenses of different styles and paces, and we have the athleticism and the length to do both.”
The Wildcats shot 58% from the floor and 43% from behind the arc as they were much improved from their previous game. Despite turning the ball over 16 times, they still forced 17 turnovers from the Colonels and were +17 on the boards. Villanova also set a new school record with 13 blocks on the night.
Omari Spellman had another promising night despite finding himself in foul trouble. He finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 assists in 22 minutes. When asked about Spellman’s ability to spread the floor, head coach Jay Wright said, “Omari really is one of our top 3-point shooters. I have to be careful saying that because we have some really good ones, but he really is and he does it every day.”
Wright went on to say about Spellman, “We do shooting drills and we chart shots, he makes his threes. He actually hasn’t shot it as well as he can, even free throw shooting. He’s a good free throw shooter.” When asked what other Villanova players he compares to, Wright said “This is a stretch, but like a John Pinone that can face the basket and score, but also big and burly enough to play inside. That’s high praise.”
The three true freshman all played significant minutes off the bench as Wright tried to get them used to the speed of the college game. “Any time we can get them minutes is going to help us. They’re going to be our depth.” Wright said. “In the past, we’ve had Mikal and Dante coming off the bench, and that’s some big time players coming off the bench. Now it’s freshman, so early we might not look great. But I think by the end if those guys can really learn how we play, that’s what’s going to make us a good team.”
Collin Gillespie scored a career high 10 points with 4 rebounds and 5 assists, while both Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Jermaine Samuels scored their first baskets of the season tonight. Wright commented, “Collin’s a point guard, it’s always easy for point guards. You can put a point guard in anytime, anywhere, they’re always ready to play. Dahmir is going to be important for us with his size up front. But it was really good to get Jermaine going tonight. He’s a guy in his position that can really help us if we can get him comfortable. He still looks a little skittish out there, but it’s just because he cares so much. He’s going to be fine.”
In the first half, Mikal Bridges paced the Wildcats with 17 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 blocks. Villanova was simply dominant inside, pushing the ball into the paint to create easy lay-ups, post up opportunities, or kick-outs to open shooters. Spellman was the key to this first half approach, filling up his stat sheet with 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 assists. The team shot 59% from the floor in the half, while holding their opponents to just 36%. The cold shooting from beyond the arc continued as only Bridges and Spellman connected from deep, but the focus was clearly on pushing the ball inside and Nova only took 11 first half threes.
The second half saw Villanova continue to push their advantage, but Omari Spellman may have pushed too hard. Five minutes into the first half the big man had already picked up four fouls and would have to ride the pine until halfway through the second half. But even without their big man, Nova continued to attack the paint with success as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, and Donte DiVincenzo both finished at the rim with ease. Villanova’s shooting from deep also improved as the Cats went 5-9 to open the second half.
The Wildcats will next play on Friday in a “home” game at the PPL center in Allentown against Lafayette.
Villanova was off to a quick start from the tip as Mikal Bridges went directly to the hoop and scored in the first four seconds of the game. Nicholl’s state would hang with the Wildcats early, using penetration and mid-range shooting to pull even after every Nova basket. Despite some poor outside shooting early, Villanova found success in the paint with post ups and backdoor cuts.
Once Villanova started funneling the ball through the paint, specifically Spellman, they started to pull away from the Colonels. As the defense was forced to move inside the arc, the perimeter started to open up and Mikal Bridges hit back to back wide open threes.
Success on offense was also leading to stops on defense. Villanova started pushing their transition offense, and Bridges soon had 10 points in the first six minutes. The lead quickly grew as Nova showed they could post up, drive to the basket, or hit from distance. Whatever Nicholl’s State gave them, they took, and with just under 12 minutes left in the half they already led 25-11.
Even when Nicholl’s State forced Villanova into a late shot clock, the Wildcats would force the issue and draw a foul. Nova continued to dominate on both ends of the court. Spellman and Bridges were having a block party on one end of the court, while Paschall was driving to the basket whenever he wanted on offense. The Colonels finally had to call timeout when freshman Cosby-Roundtree slammed home a dunk to extend Nova’s 19-2 run over 6 minutes, including a 13-0 run over the last 3. Villanova now led 35-11 with just over 8 minutes remaining in the half.
Villanova got a little sloppy pushing the ball, turning it over on three straight possessions which led to back to back buckets for Nicholl’s State. But despite the small setback, Villanova still maintained a 20 point lead as the teams entered the final 5 minutes of the half.
Villanova got back to moving the ball through the paint and again started extending their already sizeable lead. They were finishing through contact at the hoop and piling up the oppositions fouls as Nova looked much more like their Top 5 ranking than they had just one week before. But the Colonels started to show some life late, hitting a few threes late in the half to cut into Nova’s lead. But Villanova continued to push the ball inside and press their advantage on offense, leading 45-28 with just over 3 minutes remaining in the half.
Villanova came out of the break with a strong defensive stop, causing a shot-clock violation, but DCR gave up his second turnover of the game and handed it right back. Bridges continued his stellar first half, now 4-4 from both the floor and the line with 2 minutes remaining. He’d eventually miss a corner three, but hit from the other corner on the next possession to give him 17 points in the first half. Villanova went to the locker room up 54-30 and in complete control of the game.
Villanova came out looking a little sloppy again in the second half, with multiple turnovers as Nicholl’s State started to cut back into the lead. But Villanova started forcing their own turnovers, and freshman Collin Gillespie scored a transition layup and a three, followed up by an assisted three to Phil Booth as Nova pushed its lead up to 26 points. The freshman had 7 points in his first 7 minutes of play, but also showed his defensive chops as he drew a charge in transition.
Villanova continued to push their advantage, but the young freshman center pushed a little too hard. After picking up his 3rd foul in the first minute of the second half, he got his fourth with just under 15 minutes left to play in the game and went to the bench. But the Wildcats continued to push the ball to the paint as Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo both entered double digit scoring and Villanova led by 31 with 12:50 left in the game.
Villanova’s athleticism started to take over as Eric Paschall and Donte DiVincenzo started throwing down posterizing dunks and Villanova pushed its lead up to 88-51 with just over 10 minutes left in the half. The Wildcats just kept pouring it on offensively, even as Jay Wright started inserting the freshman class into the game. One of those freshman, Jermaine Samuels, was blocked on a dunk attempt that would have been the first points of his Villanova career. But he returned the favor a few possessions later, stuffing a dunk attempt by the Colonels on the other end.
Villanova broke the century mark as Omari Spellman crashed the boards for an offensive put back with just over four minutes to play. By this point, Villanova had Jalen Brunson on the floor with the four freshman as Jay Wright looked to get his young players more game experience early in the season.
The Colonels would put a little dent in Villanova’s once mammoth lead, but never enough to cause the Wildcats any concern. Jermaine Samuels even ended up hitting his first basket of his career, a deep three from the wing. Tim Delaney also got some run in the final 3 minutes of the game, showing how deep Villanova’s bench really is. By the one minute mark, all the walk-ons were off the bench and into the game. They showed they have just as much grit as the rest of the team, as almost everyone gang dived for a ball, and crashed into the announcers table.
Villanova went on to win the game 113-77 and improve to 2-0 on the season.