What started out as a close game ended in a Villanova blowout, with the ‘Cats dominating the Nebraska Cornhuskers in an 87-63 victory.
This game was a part of the Gavitt Tip-off Games, a new eight-year deal between the Big East and Big Ten conferences. Each year, eight teams from each conference will match up against each other.
The Cornhuskers came out strong and acquainted themselves very quickly. They matched the potent Villanova offense, outperforming the Wildcats from long range on their own court to start.
“They came at us in the first half and took the lead,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “That was a good experience for us. A good experience for our guys to get down.”
A stunned Pavilion crowd watched the Cornhuskers lead by as much as seven in the first half.
Although the Huskers shot 31% from beyond the arc in the first half, surpassing Nova at 24%, the Wildcats still managed to outplay the young team.
They went on a pivotal 22-2 run during the last seven minutes. Ryan Arcidiacono lit the fuse with a three-pointer and Mikal Bridges was one of the pivotal forces that kept it going, thanks to his length on the defensive end.
This critical run not only pushed the ‘Cats ahead, but crushed Nebraska’s hopes of recovering.
“They’re a good, scrappy team,” said Coach Wright about the Nebraska Cornhuskers. “They didn’t give up.”
They may not have given up, but the point deficit created by the 22-2 run left the Huskers in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of. During that seven-minute stretch, they turned the ball over eight times.
“We spent seven minutes on 23 points,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said. “You aren’t going to beat a team like Villanova that way.”
The Wildcats led the Huskers 38-25 at the half.
Their shooting fortunes carried over into the second half, where they entered the second half as a force to be reckoned with, dominating at both ends of the court.
The ‘Cats made 56.7% of their shots from the field. Unlike the first half, they did not have a dry spell plague them.
On defense, Villanova was aggressive. Although the Wildcats were outrebounded 40-33 for the whole game, their swarming defense caused headaches for the Cornhuskers.
Villanova forced 22 turnovers, converting them into 33 of its 87 points.
Daniel Ochefu patrolled the paint on both sides. He put up another double-double performance, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also added three blocks.
“At the end of the day, defense and rebounding wins games but as a senior, Coach is looking for me a lot more in the post and in our offense,” Ochefu said.
His play down low helped opened it up for his teammates, who were elsewhere on the floor. It helped contribute to a true team effort. Three other teammates scored at least ten points.
Josh Hart led the way with a game-high 19 points and five rebounds. Arcidiacono had 15 points for the night. Phil Booth was a key contributor off the bench, adding 11 points and four assists.
Villanova also showed how deep their bench is tonight with the contributions of every active player.
Forward Darryl Reynolds stood out with his two emphatic slam dunks. He grabbed two rebounds in the win, but was tagged with three fouls and just 16 minutes of play
For the Cornhuskers, junior transfer from Kansas Andrew White III had an impressive game, putting up 18 points and six rebounds. He is a strong addition to the team, however, Nebraska will need more than just him to win. Senior Shavon Shields and freshman Glynn Watson Jr. each posted 12 points as well.
Villanova holds a 58-1 record when scoring more than 70 points in a game, which is the highest among all college teams.
The Wildcats also continue an impressive home streak of wins that has not been broken since 2013. They improve to 2-0.
The Wildcats resume action on Friday night, clashing against the East Tennesse State Buccaneers. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.