The Villanova Wildcats overwhelmed the LaSalle Explorers 76-47 in a Big Five matchup on Sunday, December 13th at the Pavilion. The Wildcats received balanced scoring with 5 players reaching double figures. Josh Hart led the way with 18 points, Ryan Arcidiacono had 14, Jalen Brunson had 13, Mikal Bridges chipped in 12, and Phil Booth, who started in place of Kris Jenkins, added 10 points. Jenkins was benched for a minor academic infraction. Most impressively, Villanova shot a blistering 54.9% for the game (28-51, including 13-28 three-point attempts), and had 24 assists on 28 baskets.
Villanova broke an 8-8 tie at 14:43 with a dunk by Daniel Ochefu, and never trailed again. Hart connected on two consecutive three-pointers to give Villanova a double digit lead, 33-21, with under three minutes to play in the first half to take the wind completely out of the Explorers’ sails. At the intermission, Villanova led by a score of 38-23. The win by the Wildcats was their 12th straight in the Big Five round-robin series.
Villanova also displayed an aggressive defense which limited the Explorers to 32.7% (17-52) shooting. Jordan Price, LaSalle’s leading scorer was held to 16 points on 6-17 shooting. The only other Explorer in double figures was Johnnie Shuler who contributed 11 points. Villanova won the battle on the boards by a 34-23 margin. Ochefu paced Villanova with10 rebounds. Arcidiacono was the assist leader for the Wildcats with 7.
Up next for Villanova, now 8-1 overall, 2-0 Big Five, is a game at the 10th ranked University of Virginia on Saturday December 19 at noon-time. The game will be televised on ESPN 2. This will be a big test for the Wildcats after being handled by Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor. The Sooners are the only other ranked opponent that Villanova has faced this season and a loss to Virginia would start to raise questions about Villanova’s ability to defeat ranked opponents. A win would give them a big-time win over a ranked opponent on the road, something the NCAA selection committee always seems to look for when the March Madness seedings come out.
LaSalle, 4-4 overall, 0-2 Big Five, will return to the court on Tuesday December 22 when it plays the University of Miami at 5 PM at the Palestra. That game will be televised on CBSSN.