The Villanova Wildcats gave their fans a glimpse of what the upcoming 2017-18 season might look like when they defeated the Drexel Dragons 87-68 at the Jake Nevin Field House on Wednesday, November 1, in an exhibition game played to benefit the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief efforts.
The Wildcats started the game with a starting lineup of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth, Omari Spellman, making his debut after sitting out last year, and, to the surprise of many, freshman Collin Gillespie. Villanova grabbed a quick 8-0 lead, that expanded to 20-7, and then to 31-13 with slightly over six minutes to go in the first half. The first half ended with Villanova far in front of Drexel by a score of 45-22. Villanova substituted frequently and played nine men in the opening half, including freshmen Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir (Dada) Cosby-Roundtree. Both Eric Paschall and Mikal Bridges gave the Wildcats a big boost (offensively and defensively) off of the bench.
Villanova started the second half strong with DiVincenzo hitting three quick three-pointers to extend the lead to 54-29. Following an Eric Paschall layup, the score stood at 59-34 with just over 12 minutes to play. The lead subsequently ballooned to 76-48 on a Brunson three. The Dragons showed great resilience and energy and cut the Wildcats margin by the game’s end to 87-68. Drexel, in fact, outscored the Wildcats 46-42 in the second half. Coach Jay Wright complimented the Dragons, coached by Zach Spiker, on their toughness and energy.
Villanova displayed balance on offense, energy on both ends of the court, and tenacity on the boards. Brunson, selected as the pre-season Big East Player of the Year, showed why he is receiving accolades from opposing coaches and the media, by leading the Wildcats in scoring with 16, and in assists with 6. Paschall, who threw down a few power dunks, added 15. Bridges with 13, Divincenzo with 11, and Booth, returning after missing most of last year, with 10 points, joined Brunson in double figures. Spellman, who showed a nice scoring touch from distance, was Villanova’s top rebounder with 12. Paschall grabbed 9 boards. The Wildcats ended up with 24 assists, but committed 21 turnovers. Villanova also blocked a dozen shots, paced by Bridges’ 4 blocks.
For Drexel, freshman Tadas Kararianas was its leading scorer with 16. Sammy Mojica with 12, and Troy Harper with 10, were the other double-figure scorers for Drexel. Kararianas was also the Dragons leading rebounder with 6.
Villanova plays its first regular season game of the season on Friday, November 10, when they host the Columbia Lions of the Ivy League at 8:30 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center. There is good reason for optimism for the fanbase. The team has a good balance of returning players, and fresh faces. The Wildcats showed great versatility on the court last night, with many of the players playing multiple positions. Most importantly, there is strong leadership with Brunson, Bridges, DiVincenzo, and Paschall, all significant contributors last season, back and eager to continue the recent success of the past several years.
[Photos by D. Jacob Miller Photography]
[Article by Stephen Miller]
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