A number of fans were wondering if Phil Booth was still getting into form coming off of a knee injury that kept him out almost all of last season. Those questions were put to bed tonight as Booth flirted with a double-double and joined the other “Killer B’s”, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, to lead the Villanova Wildcats to a 94-53 victory over rival St. Joe’s in this year’s installment of the “Holy War”.
Bridges, who also came close to a double-double, led all scorers with 18 points, adding 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Booth was also a beast on the boards as he finished the game with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. Jalen Brunson rounded out a great night from Villanova’s captains with 14 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds.
Villanova saw its first change in the starting lineup this season as Donte DiVincenzo got the call over Omari Spellman at tip-off. Spellman was into the game relatively quickly, but was held out after missing weight this week. He certainly made his case to get back into his starting spot with a second career double-double that included 16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, and a steal. Spellman also showed off some impressive range, going 4-5 from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats did an excellent job of moving the ball tonight, assisting on over 68% of their baskets. That opened up the perimeter, allowing the Cats to score a school record 19 three pointers, just two shy of the NCAA record. Overall, Villanova shot 50.8% from the floor and 54.3% from deep.
While Villanova’s offense was firing on all cylinders by the end of the game, it was the defense that again carried the Wildcats throughout the game. They held St. Joe’s to just 32.8% shooting for the game, including 20.8% from deep. Nova outrebounded St. Joe’s 49-28 for the game, including an impressive +19 in the second half. One of the few negative takeaways from the game was that Villanova finished -1 in the turnover battle, giving up the ball 11 times in this one.
The Wildcats were a little slow offensively out of the gate, very similar to last week in the Bahamas. St. Joe’s combination of zone and a pack-line man defense was limiting the Cats interior scoring, while perimeter pressure kept Nova at just 25% shooting from deep until late in the first half. But it’s hard to keep Villanova down too long. As they started making adjustments, Booth, Bridges, and Spellman combined to connect on five straight threes to extend their lead to double digits at halftime.
Nova shot 51% from the floor in the first half, including 43% from deep and a perfect 2-2 from the charity stripe. While shots weren’t falling early, the Cats did a great job moving the ball and assisted on 75% of their first half baskets. Phil Booth led all players in points (13), rebounds (6), and assists (4) at the half. Defensively, Villanova held slim leads in rebounds (+2) and turnovers (+3), but they had 5 first half blocks to St. Joe’s zero.
The Wildcats continued their first half dominance, extending a 26-2 run to open the second half. Villanova never looked back as they just kept their foot on the gas, pushing their lead up to 30 points with 14 minutes remaining in the game. In true Big 5 fashion, St. Joe’s would make a push to cut into Nova’s lead. But Villanova continued its hot shooting from deep, and the Hawks were never able to get back into this one.
Villanova will look to continue this momentum next week when they head to MSG in New York to take on #15 Gonzaga on Tuesday at 7:00PM as part of the Jimmy V Classic. Gonzaga is also coming off an impressive win, a comeback victory at home over #25 Creighton.