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Villanova vs. Lafayette Preview: 3 things to watch

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The Wildcats grabbed a 40-point win over the Leopards last season

Lafayette v Villanova Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Villanova Wildcats wrap up their easiest portion of their non-conference schedule with a trip to Allentown, Pa., to take on the Lafayette Leopards on Friday. The meeting will pit together two teams starting the season in opposite directions as Villanova enters the contest 2-0, while Lafayette is 0-2.

A season ago, the Wildcats opened their title defense with an 88-48 drubbing of the Leopards, which included a 49-17 halftime edge. In that contest, Jalen Brunson had a game-high 17 points, while Mikal Bridges chipped in 16 points off the bench.

Friday’s contest could be another lopsided affair, and here are some things to watch as Villanova gets ready for its first game away from the Wells Fargo Center:

An atypical start from the charity stripe

In the Jay Wright era at Villanova, one of the staples of the team has been shooting a high-percentage from the free throw line. The Wildcats have consistently entered the NCAA tournament as one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country.

This season, however, Villanova is shooting just 66.7 percent from the line through two games. This comes on the heels of a 2016-17 season in which the team finished at 79 percent. Two games can be an anomaly, but each game where this continues start to illustrate a trend. You can bet that Wright is hoping for better results from the foul line before those shots start to really matter in the Bahamas.

Will Donte’s hot start continue?

Through two games this season, Villanova’s leading scorer is sophomore Donte DiVincenzo at 16.5 ppg. It’s not a shock that DiVincenzo has started hot, as many were predicting a breakout season for the pride of Delaware. However, the fact that he’s coming off the bench and putting up these kinds of scoring numbers is surely impressive.

One begins to wonder what the ramifications of such a start might mean for the look of the team going forward. If DiVincenzo proves to be the team’s best scoring option this season, will Wright continue to keep having him come off the bench? It’s possible that if Phil Booth struggles or needs more rest for his knee, the two players could eventually switch roles.

A bigger test for Villanova

While the game might be a little one-sided on Friday, one thing to keep an eye on is how Villanova deals with Lafayette senior Matt Klinewski. At 6-foot-8, Klinewski is the most talented player of any significant size that Villanova has faced to this point. He’s averaging 16.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in the early going.

Wright has options on defense that includes Bridges, Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman. Klinewski isn’t your typical back to the basket big, which means we could see any and probably all of those three players take some time defending him. It should be an early indication of how this team defends players of similar size.

The showdown in Allentown tips at 8 p.m. on FS2.