It’s been awhile since DePaul’s home crowd erupted with cheers for an opponent like it did when Villanova’s Jalen Brunson was announced before the crowd on Monday night.
The sophomore from Villanova had his start as a ball player just down the road in Adlai E. Stevenson High School, and is undoubtedly regarded as somewhat of a hometown hero after he went away to college and won a national championship in his very first season. The Chicagoland native led Villanova to a 75-62 victory, scoring a team-high 18 points, and picking up four rebounds and four assists as well.
Even David Leitao, the head coach for DePaul only had good things to say about the 6’3” guard.
“Ryan Arcidiacono has been matched by Jalen Brunson’s play,” said Leitao.
Brunson certainly has been compared to Arcidiacono before, and the comparisons will continue as he improves as a ball player on the court. Right after scoring a 3-pointer in the first half, Brunson ran to the other end of the court and dove into the crowd in order to save a ball going out-of-bounds. In a way, it was reminiscent of his predecessor, Arcidiacono, who he played alongside with last year.
The game was dominated by Villanova right from the beginning. In the first half, the ‘Cats went 6-of-12 (50%) from beyond the arc, while DePaul only made one of their 11 attempts (9.1 percent) from deep. Inside the arc, ‘Nova went 12-of-23 (52.2 percent), and DePaul only made 7-of-12 (28 percent). After that rough start for DePaul, the game was pretty much over. The Wildcats came out hard, and kept the lead the entire game, besides the first 25 seconds, when the score was tied at 0-0.
Villanova also got a big boost from Josh Hart, seemingly fitting for the Valentine’s Day spirit. The senior played hard in the game, scoring 16 points. His fellow classmate, Kris Jenkins, scored 13 points and had eight rebounds in the game.
Redshirt sophomore Mikal Bridges contributed to the win, with 15 points – two of them coming from a downright beautiful dunk in the beginning of the first half. Bridges continues to develop his skills and consistency as a player.
Another player that was given the opportunity to develop their skills, and become more comfortable on the court was freshman Dylan Painter. Usually a last-minute blowout player, he has suddenly become Villanova’s seventh man, in light of recent injuries. Painter played a total of 13 minutes this game, and was able to get more than just the three rebounds he earned on Saturday night versus Xavier. He scored two points in the first ten minutes of the game and picked up four rebounds.
The reason Painter was able to get more minutes – and hopefully become more reliable a player – was because of the injury that sidelined senior Darryl Reynolds for the second game in a row. Before his injury, Reynolds started every single one of the Wildcats games this season, although in both games his presence wasn’t as desperately missed as many had expected. Out for a rib injury, the senior is on a day-to-day basis, and may be able to get back in for their next game.
The Wildcats resume action this Saturday on the road, at Seton Hall. Tipoff is at 12:30 p.m.