The 6th ranked Villanova Wildcats tipped off their 2017-18 college basketball season on November 10th by beating the visiting Columbia Lions 75- 60 at the Wells Fargo Center, Villanova’s home court for this season while the Finneran Pavilion undergoes major renovations. Villanova was paced by Eric Paschall with 15 points and All-American, Jalen Brunson, with 14 points.
Villanova won their 15th straight season opener by beating a disciplined Columbia team, out of the Ivy League. The Wildcats came into the game as a heavy favorite, and with determination to revenge a terrible loss from 2012 to Columbia at the Pavilion. Columbia, coached by Jim Engles, played aggressively and kept it close in the first half, but could not match the talent level of the Wildcats. Villanova shot poorly in the first half but nevertheless outscored Columbia 32-23 at the intermission.
In the second half, as they often do, Villanova started to put it together and took command to pull away from the Lions. In addition to Paschall and Brunson, Omari Spellman, a heralded recruit, making his debut after being forced to sit last year because of an NCAA ruling, produced a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards, and Donte DiVincenzo chipped in 13 points. The Lions were led by guard Mike Smith with a game-high 19 points.
Overall, Villanova shot 40.3% from the field, hitting 27-67 shots. Villanova struggled from three-point range hitting on only 7-32 attempts (21.9%), and also from the charity stripe hitting 14-22 free throws (63.6%). Villanova dominated the Lions defensively by forcing 13 turnovers and controlling the rebounding battle by a margin of 45-32, with Spellman and Paschall with 9 rebounds apiece leading the way. Jalen Brunson had three assists for the Wildcats against 1 turnover. Phil Booth, the leading scorer in the Wildcats’ 2016 championship win over North Carolina, who missed most of last season with a knee issue, added 3 assists and a steal.
Columbia’s Kyle Castlin contributed 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Smith with 19 points was the Lions top scorer. Next up for Villanova is game against Nicholls State at the Wells Fargo Center on November 14,
[Photos by Rick Pettine]
[Article by Stephen Miller]
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