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Wildcats fend off fightin’ Blue Hens for 78-70 victory

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Five ‘Cats scored in double figures, as Villanova tempered the flames of Delaware’s hot start.

NCAA Basketball: Pennsylvania at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Villanova Wildcats participated in the Never Forget Tribute Classic, Josh Hart dropped an unforgettable 37 points against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a battle of top 25 teams.

This time around, Saturday’s contest with the Delaware Blue Hens is probably one to soon forget.

Villanova did get the win, leading the way for 38:31 of the full 40-minute match. While that was certainly expected, Wildcat fans likely didn’t imagine that the Blue Hens would make it a bit close for comfort. No. 20 Villanova held off the Delaware for a 78-70 win.

Although the ‘Cats held the lead for as long as they did and five different players scored in double figures, Delaware managed to keep it close by breaking down the ‘Nova defense and riding the performance of redshirt junior guard Nate Darling.

Darling had a game-high 29 points and shot 6-of-11 from long range. He carried the Blue Hens, as ‘Nova struggled to slow him down.

At first, it looked like Villanova would explode to a big lead. The Wildcats found plenty of success shooting the three-ball. Cole Swider drained a long-range shot to give Villanova a 22-10 lead, with 13:14 remaining, the Wildcats’ biggest lead of the game.

The Blue Hens wouldn’t go away, as they fought to inch closer to the Wildcats before the break. Villanova held a 37-32 halftime lead.

The second half was much closer, as Villanova went cold from the three-point line and didn’t have as much success offensively. Despite an improved shooting performance by the Blue Hens, the Wildcats never gave up the lead.

Darling had 18 of his 29 points in the second half, pushing his team to try and overtake the ‘Cats. While there were a few instances Villanova’s lead was down to one or two points, the Wildcats managed to hold them off.

Jermaine Samuels led Villanova with 18 points, five rebounds, and a pair of steals. Justin Moore delivered another solid performance off the bench, generating 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Saddiq Bey added 13 points. Cole Swider shot 4-of-6 overall, en route to a 12-point and six-rebound game. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.

Aside from Darling, Kevin Anderson had 14 points in the loss. Ryan Allen finished with 10 points. Justyn Mutts scored eight points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and tallied four steals. It is the first loss of Delaware’s season, who entered Saturday’s contest with the best start in school history.

As for Villanova, the Wildcats improve to 8-2 overall. They will take another week off, before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 21, against the No. 2-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET