Villanova and Purdue tipped off the 2016 Gavitt Games with the intensity that was much expected for the first of two games in the series to feature two ranked teams going head-to-head.
The showdown came to the final seconds of the game, with the No. 3 Wildcats doing just enough to hang on for a 79-76 win over the No. 15 Boilermakers.
Josh Hart led the way for Villanova, scoring a game-high 24 points for the win. Eric Paschall had 11 points off the bench before fouling out late in the game. Jalen Brunson added 10 points, three rebounds, and four assists.
As for Purdue, its talented front court lived up to the hype on Monday night, as Isaac Haas had a team-high 22 points off of 8-of-10 shooting. Caleb Swanigan finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
A half-court heave by Purdue’s P.J. Thompson tied the game at 39 going into halftime. After the break, the game resumed its intense back-and-forth manner until Villanova was able to make a series of free throws in the closing minutes of the game, distancing itself from Purdue.
Down by three, the Boilermakers had one last chance to tie the game and bring it into overtime. Swanigan attempted a three, while trying to draw contact. However, no foul was called and the ball fell short of the rim. Dakota Mathias was able to collect the loose ball and kick it out to Carsen Edwards in the corner. Edwards, who had a pair of defenders in his face, had no choice but to shoot the ball with the clock winding down. The ball harmlessly hit the side of the backboard as the buzzer sounded and Purdue’s upset-minded efforts were in vain.
Here are three takeaways from the Villanova-Purdue game:
The Growth of Darryl Reynolds
Jay Wright has done a great job of developing big men over their four years at Villanova. It was most recently seen with the growth of Daniel Ochefu, who was raw offensively as a freshman but solid as a defender and rebounder. He then became an all-around center inside that even developed a mid-range jumper during his senior year. Reynolds is starting to show signs of his growth and evolution. His first two years were spent glued to the bench, but he eventually got to prove himself last year as Ochefu’s backup and even as a starter. Against a much bigger Purdue front court, he was able to hold his own. Reynolds finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. He had a couple of nice putback dunks to top it off, too.
It’s Nice to Share, You Know
One key to the Wildcats’ success last season was their ability to spread the ball out and look for the open man. They assisted on 58.7 percent of their made shots last year. In this game, Villanova assisted on only 12-of-34 (35.3 percent) of baskets. The Wildcats offense didn’t seem as smoothly operated as they did during their national championship run and that could be attributed to it. Granted, it’s still early in the season and there are kinks to be worked out, but the isolation drives and settling for shots won’t always result in favorable ends.
Big Men, Bigger Problems
Purdue might just be the largest team Villanova plays all season long. With 7-2 behemoth Isaac Haas and 6-foot-9 stretch forward Caleb Swanigan headlining the Boilermakers’ front court, it wasn’t looking like a favorable matchup for the smaller Villanova in the middle. The Haas-Swanigan one-two punch combined for 42 points, 16-of-23 shooting (69.6 percent), and 11 rebounds. Aside from the holes in Villanova’s front court, the game confirmed one thing. At 6-10, Dylan Painter is Villanova’s tallest player. With the ineligibility of Omari Spellman, it looked like Painter would shoulder a greater workload than previously expected, especially in a game where Villanova could have used all the size upfront it could get. However, he didn’t log any playing time against Purdue and barely had court time in the win against Lafayette. Eric Paschall seems to have gotten those minutes, and it seems Painter isn’t ready—yet.