After a close call with Western Michigan on Thursday morning, the Wildcats looked like they learned their lessons from the opening round game of the Charleston Classic.
Villanova poured it on Wake Forest in the semifinals, dropping 16 3-pointers en route to a 96-77 victory over the Demon Deacons.
The Wildcats, who showed vulnerability in their defense in the quarterfinal game against Western Michigan, needed to step it up against a Wake Forest team that was coming off of a 103-point performance against UTEP.
They were able to do just that, limiting the Demon Deacons, while playing well as a team on the other end of the court.
Josh Hart had the hot hand early, making five of Villanova’s first six baskets. His great start allowed Villanova to build a quick 14-5 lead. Once his opening three took the lead, the ‘Cats never lost it. It was foreshadowing of what was to come, as Hart finished the game with a career-high 30 points off of an efficient 11-of-14 shooting performance. He was great from deep, making 6-of-9 3-point attempts.
The Demon Deacons were eventually able to settle in midway through the first half. They were able to get a bit of a scoring spurt, cutting Villanova’s lead down to just three after an Austin Arians jumper made it 21-18 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the half. That would be the closest Wake Forest would ever get, as Villanova eventually brought its lead back into double figures, taking a 47-37 lead into halftime.
The second half was more of the same, except it was Mikal Bridges who would do most of the damage. Bridges made his mark right after the break, eventually finishing with a career-high 19 points. Like Hart, he was efficient, shooting 7-off-11 on the floor. Bridges added seven rebounds to his performance.
Villanova’s lead never dipped back into single digits, not even for a second, as the game unfolded.
Wake Forest had six different players score in double figures. Regardless, it did not matter. The Demon Deacons were unable to replicate their 60 percent 3-point shooting percentage from the previous game against UTEP.
The Wildcats limited them to going just 8-for-21 (38.1 percent) from deep.
John Collins led Wake Forest with a 17-point, six-rebound performance. Arians and Bryant Crawford had 12 points each.
Aside from Hart and Bridges, Villanova also saw solid performances from Kris Jenkins, who finished with 16 points, and Jalen Brunson, who added another 11 points and six assists. Donte Divincenzo contributed 12 points and four boards off of the bench.
With the win behind them, the Wildcats will await the winner of the Charleston-UCF game in the finals. The championship game of the Charleston Classic is slated for Sunday.