The Villanova men’s basketball team rebounded after a tough non conference stretch as they soundly defeated La Salle by a score of 72-46 on Sunday evening in the Palestra. The win improved the Wildcats’ record to 4-2 overall and started Big 5 play with a 1-0 record.
Graduate point guard Collin Gillespie led the team with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Senior forward Brandon Slater had 12 points, while redshirt senior guard Caleb Daniels and redshirt sophomore forward Eric Dixon both added 11 points. Graduate forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, who hadn’t appeared for the ‘Cats since Mar. 7 2020, played nearly six minutes for a flu-stricken Villanova team, and scored two points and added two rebounds in his return to the court.
A dominant effort by ‘Nova began on the defensive end, as the ‘Cats led the Explorers 9-0 after five minutes of play. Gillespie started things off with a deep three point shot. Graduate forward Jermaine Samuels followed soon after with a layup under the hoop and a foul shot. The ‘Cats were dominant under the basket as they controlled most rebounds both offensively and defensively, outrebounding La Salle 50-30 in the game.
After La Salle’s Khalil Brantley scored the Explorers’ first points of the game out of an Explorer timeout, Slater stutter-stepped past the defense for a dunk from the left side to respond. The Wildcats’ defensive effort continued to dominate as junior guard Chris Arcidiacono stole a pass by the offense allowing Cosby-Roundtree to put points up of his own. Brantley scored the first nine points for the Explorers, finishing the run with a three pointer.
Although junior guard Justin Moore had a lackluster start to the game, he responded to Brantley’s three-pointer with a three of his own for his first points of the night. Dixon also found the net off of his own offensive rebound.
At this point in the night, the ‘Cats went on a 21-0 run to take a 39-9 lead deep into the first half. Brantley hit another three after, accounting for all 12 Explorer points at that point in the game, while the remainder of the team had gone 0-14 on field goals going into the last three minutes of the half.
Ball movement highlighted the end of the half and Villanova led 42-17 at the break.
After racing out to a dominant halftime lead, Villanova cruised the rest of the way despite increased challenge from the Explorers.
Scoring for the ‘Cats was evenly distributed among the offense with Gillespie and Moore leading the way with six points in the second half. The La Salle defense was able to get a better hold on the ‘Nova offense, holding the Wildcats to just 30 points in the second half.
The La Salle offense finally found momentum, scoring 29 points in the half. Sophomore guard Jhamir Brickus led the team with ten points in the second half, helping to take some weight off of Brantley’s shoulders. The 17 points scored by Brantley throughout the game was a career high for the freshman.
While the second half may not have been as dominant as the first for the ‘Cats, a lopsided win in a survival-and-advance type of season was still the result.
“I thought we played a good first half,” head coach Jay Wright said postgame. “We didn’t do as good of a job in the second half but we’ll take it. We’re happy to get a Big 5 win against a good La Salle team.”
The Wildcats continue Big 5 play with a return to the Palestra on Wednesday against Penn at 7 p.m. The team will then come home on Saturday for the first time in almost three weeks to battle Big 5 foe St. Joseph’s at 12 p.m. The games will be televised on ESPN+ and FS1, respectively.