Villanova welcomed the Wells Fargo Center to the 2018-2019 season in style by dropping the 2018 National Championship banner. The night was capped off with a win against the Quinnipiac Bobcats. The Bobcats, led by former Jay Wright assistant Baker Dunleavy (who was cheered instead of “HE SUCKS TOO”-ed), did their best to fend off a clearly more talented Villanova squad.
Coach Wright made two starting lineup switches from Tuesday by substituting Joe Cremo and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree in favor of Jermaine Samuels and Dylan Painter. Both changes did not come as a surprise as we expected to see some changes from opening night following some shaky defense and questionable turnovers.
The game had an odd start with some technical difficulties, but the place got rocking with its first bucket from Phil Booth. Early on, Quinnipiac tried to slow the Villanova offense down with a ¾ court press, only to have it broken and lead to a baskets.
After a 14-3 opening 8 minutes, capped off with a block by Paschall at one end, followed directly by an and-one by Samuels, it became clear that the Cats had this one under control. Their rain of terror didn’t let up as they led 26-5 after Gillespie drained back-to-back threes (get it?) with 8:15 to go in the half. There was a flash of brilliance by Quinnipiac star wing Cameron Young, who blew past Nova’s defense for a highlight reel dunk, only to have Samuels drain a three on the other end to get the crowd going.
The halftime score of 47-20 really showed how overpowering Nova was, who looked like they intended on ending the entire Quinnipiac basketball program before halftime. The Cats shot 53.1% from the field, 46.7% from three, and grabbed every loose ball and rebound like their lives depended on it.
The second half started and ended just about the same. Villanova exploded at the start with some great displays of shooting, but did lack some coherence on defense compared to their first half performance. The halftime adjustments by Quinnipiac seemed to help, but ultimately did not really have an effect on the outcome of the game. With 10:43 left, the Cats had over double the points of Quinnipiac, and yet they still never let up.
The final score sometimes does not tell the story of the game, but in this case it did. With a handy 86-53 win, the Cats cruised to a 2-0 start to the season.
The story of the game was Phil Booth, who finished with 23 points on 7 for 16 shooting, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds en route to a +/- of 35. Cosby-Roundtree showed some flashes of his rip protecting skills, blocking 3 shots and forcing many bad ones. The icing on the cake was seeing Collin Gillespie start to take over, posting a +/- of 26. He finally seemed to be running the floor like a seasoned veteran, at the risk of drawing future Archie comparisons.
Q: Coach, what was it like playing against former assistant coach Baker Dunleavy?
Jay Wright: It seemed like a good idea when we talked about it, but then it comes the week before and I’m watching film of them doing what we do. I told the team ‘Whatever play we call they know everything we do so it’s going to be tough to run specific plays so I didn’t particularly enjoy it.
Q: Phil, do you feel like you have more of a burst this season than last season?
Phil Booth: Probably even better coming off another summer practicing with the team and working out with coach Shack so I’m definitely feeling better than you did last year.
Q: Collin, how do you see your role differing this year from last year?
I’m taking on more of a leadership role, trying to talk and help this team play Villanova basketball for 40 minutes.