Twas’ the game before Christmas, and all through Our House, not a creature was stirring, not even Phil Booth.
However, the Wildcats fought through finals-induced lethargy and despite a strong showing by the American Eagles in the first half, Villanova easily dashed the Eagles’ Cinderella hopes in front of a rabid Pavilion crowd by a whopping score of 90-48.
While Villanova may be ranked as the number one team in the nation, they didn’t play like it for much of the first half, with Patriot League bottom-feeder American keeping pace with Villanova early in the game and pulling even with Nova as late as ten minutes into the first half.
However, the Wildcats’ superior talent eventually won out, as Villanova rode senior superstar Josh Hart to a blowout victory. Hart, who led the team with 20 points, was the catalyst for Villanova’s run to put away the Eagles, capping his first half with a mid-range jumper at the buzzer. He would come out and help spark a 21-2 second half start, that would help spur the ‘Cats to a lopsided victory.
Aside from Hart, four other Wildcats scored in double figures, including two players Eric Paschall and Donte DiVincenzo, who racked up points coming off the bench. Paschall in particular had a stellar performance, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds on a 5-of-6 shooting performance. DiVincenzo chipped in 12 points and five rebounds. DiVincenzo had the highlight play of the night, however, blocking a layup attempt by Serbian big man Andrija Matic, a player nearly half a foot taller than him, late in the second half.
Sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson continued to show marked improvement, racking up 14 points, including a smooth Euro step layup which completely baffled the American defenders.
Mikal Bridges also kept up his strong play in the hopes of keeping his starting spot after starting guard Booth went down with a knee injury that has kept him out for a while now. Bridges finished with 15 points, and wowed throughout with his freakish athleticism combined with his smooth play style.
While Villanova’s offense was able to crack the Eagles’ defensive schemes, the same could not be said for American. The Eagles shot a lackluster 37 percent from the field, 27 percent from three, and a downright abysmal 57 percent from the free throw line.
Sophomore guard Delante Jones led American with a 12-point performance, but was wildly inefficient in doing so, making only 5-of-14 shot attempts. Jones also tied for the team lead in rebounds, assists, and steals, with four, two, and one respectively. American’s Sa’eed Nelson also cracked double digits with 11 points, but was even less efficient than Jones, making less than 30 percent of his shots.
Villanova moves to a stellar 12-0 after this win, and now turns their attention to conference play, and the difficulties that come with it.
The senior class of Hart, Jenkins, and Reynolds have only lost six games in conference play in their careers, but two of those losses came against Creighton, who are one of only five other remaining undefeated teams in Division I.
However, before the clash between top-ten teams, the Wildcats will play the DePaul Blue Demons at home.
Normally the basement-dwellers of the Big East, DePaul has gotten off to a surprisingly good start thus far at 7-4.
Tip-off is on December 28, at 7 p.m.