Af­ter 36-point win, Wright says ’Nova ‘needs a lot of work’

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Terry Toohey ttoohey@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ter­ryToohey on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA » Go ahead, at­tack the bas­ket. Vil­lanova dares you.

On a night when the fifth- ranked Wild­cats scored more points than they have in nearly 15 years, much of the fo­cus was on de­fense fol­low­ing Tues­day’s 113-77 de­struc­tion of Ni­cholls at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter.

That’s what hap­pens when you set a pro­gram record for blocked shots with 13, force 17 turnovers and ha­rass the op­po­si­tion into 38.6 per­cent shoot­ing from the field. And the scary thing is the Wild­cats are not close to be­ing where they want to be on the de­fen­sive end.

“We have to get bet­ter with our tech­nique,” ju­nior swing­man Mikal Bridges said. “Tech­nique is a big thing with us and we have a whole year to get bet­ter at it.”

Jay Wright sen­ti­ment.

“We’re a team that needs a lot of work,” the Vil­lanova coach said. “This is a young team for us. Usu­ally we have more ju­niors and se­niors. We have no se­niors and we’re play­ing a lot of fresh­men so we have a lot of work to do, but I think we have the po­ten­tial to be a good de­fen­sive team and I think you saw some of that tonight. It was more ath­leti­cism than it was de­fen­sive tech­nique.”

That tech­nique will come, Wright and his staff will make sure of that. Vil­lanova’s ath­leti­cism was enough to hold a Ni­cholls team to 35 fewer points than it scored in its opener and only a late surge in the sec­ond half made the shoot­ing per­cent­ages re­spectable.

Lead­ing that de­fen­sive charge for the Wild­cats (20) were Bridges and red­shirt fresh­man Omari Spell­man. They blocked four shots apiece, sec­onded that both ca­reer highs, and teamed up on an eight-sec­ond se­quence in the first half that set the de­fen­sive tone for the evening.

Bridges blocked a jumper by Roddy Peters, who grabbed the re­bound and tried again, only to be re­jected by Bridges a sec­ond time. Tevon Sad­dler pulled down the re­bound only to have his put-back at­tempt sent away by Spell­man.

“I re­mem­ber that,” Bridges said. “We didn’t let up. They got the of­fen­sive re­bound, no­body stopped and (Spell­man) got an­other block. There was a lot of good en­ergy and we were all fired up off of that and that’s what we should be fired up over, de­fen­sive things, not of­fen­sive.”

There was a lot to be ex­cited about on the of­fen­sive end, too. The 113 points were the most the Wild­cats scored in a game at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter and the most since they put up 114 on Red­land Nov. 22, 2003.

Bridges led the way with a ca­reer-high 23 points and was 7-for-11 from the field, which in­cluded a 4-for-7 night from three-point land. Yet he was more proud of the four blocks, five steals and four as­sists he had than the points.

“I don’t try to think about it,” Bridges said. “I just go out there and play as hard as I can and de­fend. That’s what I’ve been do­ing since a got here … I take pride in de­fend­ing, get­ting into pass­ing lanes, pres­sur­ing peo­ple, things like that. As coach says, if you de­fend and re­bound, good things hap­pen to you.”

De­fense trans­lated into points on the of­fen­sive end for the Wild­cats. Ev­ery­one got in on the ac­tion. Once again Donte DiVin­cenzo was a spark off the bench, shoot­ing 6-for-8 over­all, 2-for-3 from be­yond the arc and fin­ish­ing with 20 points. He’s av­er­ag­ing 16.5 points, which means he has picked up where he left off. The 6-5 sopho­more guard av­er­aged 18 points a game in the NCAA tour­na­ment last year.

“A lot of it was just con­fi­dence from the older guys that we had. Josh (Hart), Kris (Jenk­ins), and Dar­rell (Reynolds),” DiVin­cenzo said. “They did an amaz­ing job build­ing me up, es­pe­cially when I was down and feel­ing up­set about some per­for­mances. They brought me back up and with those three lead­ers be­ing gone and jump­ing from year one to year two, my lead­er­ship roll has been ex­pand­ing. We have a lot of weapons on this team and a lot of ath­letic guys so the big­gest change would be tak­ing that lead­er­ship role.”

Jalen Brun­son (17 points), Phil Booth (12), Eric Paschall (11) and Collin Gillespie (10) also reached dou­ble fig­ures. Spell­man had nine points and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree added eight. Those were ca­reer highs for Gillespie and Cos­byRoundtree, who are both fresh­men.

As a team, Vil­lanova con­nected on 57.5 per­cent of its at­tempts from the field, the sec­ond best shoot­ing day the Wild­cats have had at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter. And it all started on the de­fen­sive end.

“We had great en­ergy and we al­most did it for 40 min­utes,” Wright said. “It’s hard to do it for 40 min­utes at this point of the sea­son, but we did a pretty good job.”

*** NOTES » The Wild­cats have won eight straight at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter, to tie their long­est win­ning streak in the build­ing. Vil­lanova has won 16 of 17 and 19 of 21 in South Philly since the start of the 2012-13 sea­son. … Vil­lanova topped the cen­tury mark for the 65th time in pro­gram his­tory and the 15th time un­der Wright. … Up next for the Wild­cats is a dou­ble­header Fri­day night at the PPL Cen­ter. The women take on Le­high in the opener at 5 p.m. The men face Lafayette, coached by for­mer Vil­lanova great, Fran O’Han­lon, in the night­cap at 8.

MATT SLOCUM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For the sec­ond straight game, Vil­lanova’s Donte DiVin­cenzo was a force Tues­day night, scor­ing 20 points in a win over Ni­cholls at Wells Fargo Cen­ter.

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