PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/10/2017 – The 6th ranked Villanova Wildcats raised the curtain on another basketball season. This time the game was at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Wildcats extended their opener winning streak to 15 games with a 75 – 60 win over the Columbia Lions.
The reviews are in. Villanova can be described as a team in progress with an interesting mix of experience and youth, and enough talent to overcome the Lions. In November 2012 the two teams met. Columbia pulled off a 75 – 57 win at the Pavilion, their first win over a Big East team. That was then.
“This is going to be an interesting crew” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright about this team. “We haven’t had a team where the young guys will be so heavily depended on. On the other hand we have six starters. In the second half when we stayed with experienced people we looked better. We have to get the young guys experience. It may look bad early, but there is potential at the end to be a good team.”
Of the experienced players Jalen Brunson scored 14 points and had 3 assists in a team-high 34 minutes. Forward Eric Paschall had a team-best 15 points and set a career-mark with 9 rebounds. Donte DiVincenzio added 13 points while Mikal Bridges took down 7 boards. They are teachers as well as leaders.
“All of those young guys we’re going to get on them, but as leaders we have to show them how to play Villanova basketball,” Brunson said about what needs to be taught. “That starts with the leaders and will trickle down.”
Of the the young players forward Omari Spellman made the biggest impression with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes on the floor.
“I like how he rebounded the ball,” Wright said about Spellman. “For a big guy that’s the most difficult offense to guard and he did it well in his first game. He was forced to guard the ball off screens and he did a good job with it. Decision making, communicating defensively will get better the more he plays. He’s got to play. He hasn’t played a game in two years.”
The offense sputtered early. In the second half the Wildcats got rolling. Leading 32 – 23 at halftime Nova started the half with a 9 – 2 run moving in front 44 – 25 in just over three minutes of play. The lead would grow to 61 – 42 on a dunk by Bridges assisted by Spellman. Ball movement and team play were the keys to the deciding spurt.
“We had a series in the second half when we broke it open when we went inside to Omari, he kicked it out and got Mikal a dunk,” said Wright. “Everybody was getting a shot. When we can get like that, be consistent like that, we have great balance.”
Mike Smith turned in a game-high 19 points for the Lions. Kyle Castlin added 10 points and 4 assists.
Up next for Nova is a Tuesday night return engagement at the Center before travelling to Allentown to face Lafayette. Then Villanova plays in the Battle For Atlantis where Western Kentucky awaits along with either Tennessee or Purdue.
Tune in for more this year.
Written By: Glenn Papazian