While the Wildcats were able to prevail in the end, Tennessee came to play, building a 46-34 lead at the break after leading by much as 15. Villanova struggled mightily in the first half and just could not get anything going. Suspect officiating led to early foul trouble forcing Jay to patch together some line-ups until the team could get to the half.
The Wildcats came out as a different team in the second half, going on 23-2 run to open up a 61-52 lead by the 11 minute mark on a Donto-steal-and-dunk. Fouls continued to pile up, with Bridges and DiVincenzo riding the pine with four fouls each with 6 minutes left in the second. However, as he always does, Brunson stepped up pacing the offense.
Tennessee cut it close, pulling it to 79-76 with 51 seconds left. Bridges hit 1-of-2 free throws to build a 4 point lead before being fouled again after a Tennessee miss. Bridges buried the free throws and Villanova put the final nail in the coffin when they forced a turnover on Tennessee’s next possession.
Brunson, in surpassing the 1,000 point mark for his Villanova career, finished with 25 points, including 9-9 from the line, and 6 assists. Mikal Bridges continued his hot start, pouring in 21 points on 7-10 from the field (2-3 from deep). Donto, whose defensive intensity helped Villanova tally 14 turnovers on the day, finished with 13 points and 6 boards. Omari Spellman had trouble getting started, getting in early foul trouble, and finishing with just 3 points and 1 rebound. The teams combined for an eye-watering 52 fouls.
The ‘Cats will face the winner of NC State/Northern Iowa tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. on ESPN2. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, ‘Nova Nation!