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Villanova Basketball vs Pace Game Recap: Villanova wins easily 80-45 as Brunson and Arcidiacono shine

The Wildcats started slow but finished strong as they easily handled Pace University 80-45 at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday afternoon.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova started slowly but was able to easily take control in their match up with Pace, winning 80-45 at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia. The Wildcats had 5 players score in double digits, lead by star freshman Jalen Brunson with 13. But the true star of the game was Senior captain Ryan Arcidiacono, who was the lone bright start to a truly ugly start for Villanova.

Game Flow

Villanova's starters for their first and only exhibition game this season were (in order announced) Jenkins, Hart, Brunson, Ochefu, and Arcidiacono. Pace controlled the opening tip and scored first with a 3 by Pace's Ryan Peterson.

Jalen Brunson took the ball down the court on both of Villanova's first possessions, but each ended in a turnover.  Villanova's first score of the game was a baseline drive and layup by Arcidiacono. He then hit a mid range jumper on the next possession to make the score 4-5 Pace.

On the defensive end, Ochefu had 2 early blocks, showing his elite skills as a rim protector.

The offense continued to run through Arcidiacono in the early going, but shots weren't falling for the wildcats. On the defensive end, sloppy rebounding was resulting in multiple chances for Pace (3 Off. Rebounds in first 5 minutes), but they couldn't convert.

While Pace seemed to be out-hustling Villanova early, Josh Hart was able to keep Villanova close with a timely jump shot and rebound.  But Villanova still couldn't find their touch from deep as Jenkins, Arcidiacono, and Brunson all missed from deep.

At 15:05 with Pace up 6-8, Phil Booth was the first man off the bench for the Wildcats, replacing Daniel Ochefu. This small lineup may work against Pace, but may not be effective against larger teams. Jenkins was beaten off the dribble for an easy pace layup by #1 Austin Mofunanya.

Reynolds quickly subbed in after that, but was also beaten off the dribble for a score and then got stuffed by the rim on a dunk attempt after a Brunson miss.  Pace continued to win almost every 50-50 ball.  This lead to additional possessions where they got to the basket with relative ease.

Villanova started to implement their 1-2-2 press, for which Josh Hart ran the point, even when Mikal Bridges was in the game.  Subs came frequently for Villanova as the rest of the bench players started getting some game minutes.  But with a lid on the rim and lack-luster defense, Villanova trailed Pace 8-14 with 11:49 left in the first half.

Arcidiacono seemed to be the only Nova player who could score, coming out of the TV timeout with a 3 to cut the Pace lead to 3.  Villanova was kept in the game by their superior athleticism, getting into the Bonus before the 10 minute mark and shooting 1 and 1's, but even those wouldn't go in.

Villanova's defense did start to improve half way through the first, turning Pace over on back to back possessions.  It wouldn't last long though, as Pace continued to drive at Jenkins for easy buckets at the hoop.  Ochefu was able to get the crowd back into the game with back to back scores, one a dunk, at the hoop to tie the game at 16-16.  Another forced turnover and a Josh Hart fast break put Nova on top for the first time in the game at the 7:35 mark of the first half.  At this point, Arch, Hart, and Ochefu are the only players to make a bucket, with Booth adding a FT.

Arcidiacono continues to be the one Villanova player who has matched Pace's intensity all game.  He was getting into passing lanes, playing aggressive defense, and creating opportunities on offense.

After 4 missed attempts, Brunson finally scored his first basket, hitting a three from the corner.  Ochefu grabbed a rebound and got the ball to Jenkins who hit his first three as the Villanova offense started to come alive.

Reynolds showed improved rebounding and defense late in the first, diving for loose balls and blocking out Pace on the glass. Divincenzo showed great quickness and agility on the defensive end, staying in front of his man and closing off driving lanes. Nova was playing noticeably better as they lead 24-16 with 3:45 left in the first.

Reynolds continued his efforts after the break as he got a strong rebound and was rewarded on the other end with an electric dunk over his defender. Arcidiacono continued his solid play taking a charge that put Villanova into the double bonus. Bridges looked good as he spear headed the 1-2-2 press with Hart off the floor, but he was unable to convert a fast break layup on the offensive end that would have put the Wildcats up by double digits. He did make up for it on the next possession with a great pass in the lane to Josh Hart for an easy basket, then followed that up with a corner 3.  He's going to be an exciting player to watch this season.

Villanova continued to struggle from the FT line, as Ochefu missed 2 shots from the stripe late in the first.  Hart made up for it, hitting both of his free throws the next time down the court. He then forced a steal as Pace tried to bring the ball down the court and put in a layup for another easy 2.

Nova would end the first half up 38-20, much improved over the final 7 minutes. Nova shot 50% from the field in the first half, and 33% (4-12) from 3.  They were only 6-10 from the charity stripe. Josh Hart lead all players with 11 pts, followed by Arcidiacono with 9 and Ochefu with 6.

Pace came out aggressive again, hitting a 3 to open the 2nd half and were then able to win the scrum for a loose ball. But Arcidiacono continued to demonstrate his senior leadership drawing a foul and then finding Ochefu under the basket on the ensuing inbound play for an easy two. The two seniors kept the connection going as Arch recorded his second assist of the half on a drive and pass play to Ochefu for another easy layup.

Brunson continued the successful offensive effort in the second half with a baseline jumper for 2.  Villanova went into the first TV timeout up 44-27. Jay went back to his "small" lineup in the 2nd, but they again struggled on both ends of the court with the smaller lineup where Jenkins is the biggest man on the court. Pace was able to cut the lead to 14 before Bridges subbed in for Brunson.

The Wildcats went into another shooting slump as they couldn't connect from the paint or behind the arc. Jenkins was finally able to end the drought with a corner three off some excellent swing passing at the 12:47 mark, putting Villanova up 47-30.

Booth continued the scoring after the break with a floater in the lane, but Pace answered right back. Bridges then almost had a Sports Center moment but was unable to convert an alley-oop.  He quickly gathered his own offensive rebound and put it in for two.  He then was able to disrupt a pass on the defensive end with a diving deflection. Bridges is showing a lot of hustle out there for the Wildcats.

Brunson air-balled a contested jump shot from about 18ft, but he was able to hit a 3 on the very next possession. Jenkins followed that with a 3 to continue the Villanova run. Bridges then stole a pass and got it to Brunson for the easy lay in.  Brunson then stole another pass and got it to Arcidiacono for a quick jump shot, extending the Villanova run to 10-0.  Booth extended the lead hitting a corner 3 before Pace was finally able to score after stealing a rebound from Ochefu to end the run at 13. Villanova lead 64-36 with under 7 minutes left.

At this point Jay put in the younger lineup, with Reynolds, Bridges, Booth, Brunson, and Divincenzo.  DiVincenzo showed great athleticism in rebounding and blocking shots.  Bridges showed off his extended offensive game hitting a corner three on the next possession. Brunson got in on the action too, diving for and winning a loose ball with just over 4 minutes left in the game. DiVincenzo then hit another 3 to extend Nova's lead to 37.  Unfortunately, the freshman followed it up with a breakaway dunk attempt that ended abruptly when he was stuffed by the rim.  All in all though, the younger members of the squad looked good when asked to step up late in the game.

At the 2:18 mark, the Villanova Bench mob members Lowe, Farrell, and Rafferty checked in to appreciative applause from the Nova Nation. DiVincenzo added another 3 as he and Bridges would finish out the game on the court for Nova.

Notes
  • It's a shame that there will only be 3 more regular season games at Wells Fargo this year.  The video and audio packages, atmosphere, and fan base are always that much better at the Wildcats home away from home.
  • Eric Paschall may need his own suit watch this year as he's clearly been to Jay's tailor.
  • Tim Delaney took on hype man duties this game, crutches and all, as the team gathered around him to conclude pre-game warm ups.
  • The SuperNova's, a Villanova a cappella group, performed the national anthem.
  • Jenkins looks slimmed down and in good shape.