VILLANOVA, PA. 12/21/2016 – The top-ranked Villanova Wildcats after an eight day break took the court against the American University Eagles. The Wildcats were not threatened, but look sluggish early. In the second the Cats awakened starting the half with an 18 – 6 run and cruised to an 90 – 48 victory at the Pavilion. Villanova improves to 12 – 0 this season.
It was in 2009 when Nova last faced AU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. American led that game for 30 minutes until Villanova pulled away for the win, and eventually made it to the Final Four. This game was not at all similar, but it did take some time for the hosts to establish full control.
“They won the battles in the first half, we won the battles in the second half,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright.
“We have the ability to stick with it, not panic and got used to their style, then we played well after that.”
Riding a 10 – 4 run the Wildcats went into the locker room ahead 40 – 29.
Start the second half. American (3 – 8) did not help their cause by fouling. It took five minutes and one second for Nova to be in the bonus. For the game Villanova went to the line 25 times making 20. American was 4 for 7 at the charity stripe.
Outscoring the Eagles 18 – 4 the Wildcats were comfortably in front 58 – 35 with 13:12 to play. The lead would stretch as the pace picked up. Nova outscored AU by 31 points in the second half, and had a 20 – 0 edge in fast break points.
“In the second half we picked up the tempo, and that helped us a lot,” Wright said.
Turnovers were a factor as American committed 14. Villanova committed miscues as well with 10, 2 in the second half, but they made American pay for their mistakes evidenced by a 18 – 5 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Wildcats limited the Eagles off the glass outrebounding the opposition 38 – 17.
Josh Hart, the USBWA Player of the Week, scored a game-high 20 points and 7 rebounds. He made 7 of 14 field goal attempts and made all 4 from the line. Forwards Eric Paschall and Mikal Bridges contributed 15 each. Paschall took down 6 boards and Bridges handed out 4 assists. Guard Jalen Brunson had 6 assists to supplement his 14 points.
Delante Jones led American with 12 points who shot 19 of 51 in game (37.3%).
The Wildcats can take some time to enjoy the holidays, then return to action on December 28 in their Big East opener as the Blue Demons of DePaul visit. Time for conference play.
“We are progressing, we feel like we are getting better day by day,” said Hart. “We are ready for the Big East season, but we’ve got to keep getting better and can’t get complacent.”
“I judge our program by where we are in the Big East,” said Wright. “If we are near the top in the Big East, our program is in good shape. If we are competing for regular season championships, Big East Tournament championships, I’m good. Right now, it’s good.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian