The opening game of the Gildan Charleston Classic resulted with gritty, strenuously-fought victory for the Villanova Wildcats, with the reigning National Champs beating Western Michigan, 76-65.
The early minutes of the matchup were a solid foreshadowing of the rest of the game. With a volley of turnovers given by both sides, a clear momentum was difficult to establish. Western Michigan was initially most affected, facing 10 turnovers in 10 minutes. Despite forcing the ball, the Wildcats were unable to capitalize on many of their possessions.
Sensing the scoreboard vacuum, Western Michigan amped their game, with Broncos junior Thomas Wilder going in for eight straight points in an attempt to close out the half with force. Thankfully for Nova Nation, Eric Paschall secured two crucial 3-pointers, extending Nova’s lead to 11 to close the half.
The sluggish tempo of the game continued onward for the Wildcats into the start of the second half, where Western Michigan were clear men on a mission. Exploiting Nova’s ineffective defense, the Broncos went on a 9-0 run. Western Michigan forced Villanova into a one possession lead in the thick of the second half, but the Wildcats widened the scoreboard gap thanks to the containing ethereal efforts of a Kris Jenkins 3 pointer followed quickly by a Jalen Brunson reverse layup.
Ultimately, Villanova was able to hold out for the W, thanks in great part to the hustle of Eric Paschall. Scoring a team-high 17 points, Paschall was the impetus behind Nova’s victory. His work in the paint provided crucial points for Nova’s offensive drought during the game. Additionally, Jalen Brunson continued to his prove his special value to the Wildcats with 14 points, further cementing his status as the “new” Arcidiacono for Nova.
Moving forward in this tournament, and frankly, the season, one thing Western Michigan made decidedly clear: Villanova desperately needs to cement it’s defensive strategy. The defense stronghold left by Ochefu was not only sorely missed this afternoon, but strongly taken advantage of by the Broncos. In fact, Western Michigan out-rebounded Nova 33-20 while nearly matching their field goals 50% to 51%. The Wildcats need to ensure a consistent presence in the paint in order to prevent another out-rebounding scenario and fill its insecure defensive void.