Any concerns following Villanova’s scrimmage loss to USC two weeks ago were quickly quelled in the regular season opener as the Wildcats put Army on the retreat with a resounding 97 – 54 win on Tuesday at the Finneran Pavilion.
After falling into an early 4-2 deficit, Villanova ran off 16 straight points to take a commanding lead which it would never relinquish. The initial run was spurred by the team knocking down five of its first six three-point attempts. The ‘Cats led 49-26 at the intermission and cruised through the second half on their way to the victory.
“We did a really good job running with them and getting back on defense,” Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said. “I was really impressed with their unselfishness and our depth was pretty good tonight.”
All-Big East Preseason Freshmen of the Year Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the ‘Cats in both points and rebounds with totals of 24 and 13 in the respective categories. Robinson-Earl also tallied six offensive rebounds in what was a spectacular college debut.
“It’s impressive,” Wright said regarding the play of his prized freshman recruit. “I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m impressed with his maturity and his basketball IQ. He’s coachable, and I think he has a big upside.”
Sophomore forward Saddiq Bey pitched in 22 points of his own, while classmate Cole Swider notched a career-high 18 points on 6-9 shooting as the first man off the bench for the home team. Swider connected on a team best four three-pointers. In all, four Wildcats scored in double figures, as junior Collin Gillespie finished with 11 points of his own.
Junior Tucker Blackwell and senior Tommy Funk, a teammate of Gillespie’s at Archbishop Wood High School, paced the Black Knights with 15 points apiece.
As a team, Villanova finished the game shooting 52.2% from the floor and 40% from beyond the three-point arc. The ‘Cats dominated in the paint, outscoring Army 40-24, while also registering 19 second chance points compared to just two for the Cadets. The Wildcats did match the Black Knights in turnovers, with each team recording 17 giveaways.
Villanova will have some time off before returning to action on Nov. 13 to face Ohio State in fifth annual Gavitt Tipoff games. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.