Wildcats stave off Western Michigan
Villanova used a 13-4 run down the stretch for a 76-65 win over Western Michigan (1-2) on Thursday to start the Charleston Classic.
Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins watched his team slice a double-digit lead to three points against defending national champion Villanova. Then the thirdranked Wildcats showed once more they’re built to handle tough games.
“They did what they do,” Hawkins said.
Villanova used a 13-4 run down the stretch for a 7665 win over the Broncos (12) on Thursday to start the Charleston Classic. Western Michigan had cut a 14-point second-half lead to 59-56 to draw within striking distances of the Wildcats.
That’s when Eric Paschall, Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart all hit 3-pointers to keep Villanova undefeated and off to its fourth straight 3-0 start.
Paschall finished with 17 points, and Jalen Brunson and Hart had 14 each. Jenkins, who’s shot at the end gave the Wildcats their national title last April, had 11.
“It was a good, tough game,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “It wasn’t pretty, though and we’ve still got to get a lot better.”
Villanova improved to 12-0 in early season tournaments over the years. The Wildcats are chasing their third consecutive crown after winning the Legends Classic in 2014 and NIT season tipoff last year.
Jalen Brunson said the Wildcats, who toughed out a 79-76 win at No. 15 Purdue on Monday night, didn’t panic at Western Michigan’s charge. “We’ve got veterans and it’s a situation we’ve seen before,” he said.
The Wildcats will face Wake Forest or UTEP on Friday for a spot in Sunday’s championship.
The Broncos (1-2) fell to 0-4 at the eight-team Charleston tournament. They lost all three games when they last visited in the 2008-09 season. Thomas Wilder led Western Michigan with 19 points.
Western Michigan lost its second straight after falling to Oakland on Monday. The Broncos forced too many long shots, finishing 3 of 15 from behind the arc. They were much more effective driving deep into Villanova’s defense. Wilder’s five baskets came from around the rim.
Villanova came off a 79-76 win at No. 15 Purdue, and its sluggish performance made this much closer than it should have been. Jenkins picked up two early fouls and played only 21 minutes in his return to South Carolina, having spent part of his childhood in Columbia.
Coach Wright said his team must pick up its defensive pressure if it hopes to succeed this year. The Wildcats lost two big defenders in forward Daniel Ochefu and guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Wright said Arcidiacono called out defensive changes, a job that’s fallen to Brunson this season. “We have the ability,” Brunson said. “We just have to get better.”
Eric Paschall, Villanova’s 6-foot-7 sophomore, has been charged with guarding taller players this season because of the Wildcats’ lack of size in their rotation. Of the eight players with 15 or more minutes, only 6-9 senior Darryl Reynolds was taller than Paschall. The sophomore says it is a difficult challenge that he’s becoming more accustomed to each time out. “I’ve just got to keep my mind clear and concentrate on what I have to do,” he said.
Josh Hart talks with Jay Wright in the second half of Villanova’s game against Western Michigan in the Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C. on Thursday.