The Wildcats came out sluggish on Thursday afternoon. Despite a poor shooting performance, Villanova beat Stanford 59-45 to move on to the championship round of the NIT Season Tipoff.
Maybe there was too much tryptophan in their system from some Thanksgiving turkey, as the Wildcats shot a mediocre 30.6% on the floor.
Villanova couldn’t get its shots to fall early in the game. The Wildcats went five minutes without seeing points on the board. However, their defense was solid, as they held a 2-0 deficit for the beginning of the game while they struggled to find their shot. It was simply foreshadowing of what was to come.
Phil Booth drained a three to finally get Villanova on the board with 14:37 remaining in the first half.
Villanova took the lead and never looked back, but Stanford was able to stay right behind them.
The Wildcats held a 30-23 lead going into halftime of the low scoring affair. They weren’t able to really put the game away until late in the second half.
Stanford’s Reid Travis was tagged with a technical foul after an elbow hit Josh Hart unintentionally, knocking him onto the floor.
Jalen Brunson sank the subsequent free throw, then Ryan Arcidiacono followed it up with a three pointer to push the lead into double figures. The lead was too great for Stanford to overcome in the closing minutes of the game.
Throughout the game, the Wildcats gave the Cardinal a difficult time on offense. Villanova’s hard-nosed defense forced Stanford to cough up the ball 23 times. Aside from that, Stanford was restricted to just 13-of-50 (26.0%) shooting on the floor. Six of their baskets came from the first half alone. Villanova’s defense continues to be an integral part of its winning recipe.
Despite their poor shooting performance, the Cardinal found other ways to compensate. They capitalized on second chance opportunities as they dominated the boards all day long. The Wildcats had a hard time rumbling with the imposing size the Cardinal had in their front court.
Stanford held a lopsided 55-35 rebounding advantage over Villanova. 20 of its boards came on the offensive glass, which later became the source of 17 of its 45 points.
Rebounding continues to be an issue for the Wildcats, and coach Jay Wright emphasized it early. Once again, he pulled players off the floor who weren’t rebounding well.
Villanova didn’t shoot that much better than the Stanford Cardinal, going 19-for-62 (30.6%) on the floor. The Wildcats posted their worst shooting performance from long range, going 7-for-34 (20.8%) from long range.
Jalen Brunson had his most productive game so far, scoring a game-high 18 points. Josh Hart was close to a double-double, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds. Mikal Bridges added a spark off the bench. He did a little of everything, adding seven points, six rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Daniel Ochefu scored four points off of limited touches, but made his presence felt on the defensive end with five blocks.
For Stanford, Dorian Pickens had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Allen chipped in 12 points. Three different players had at least 10 rebounds: Rosco Allen, M. Allen, and Pickens.
Villanova will take on Georgia Tech in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-off. The game begins at 3 p.m. tomorrow.