Villanova won the Gildan Charleston Classic championship with a strong victory against University of Central Florida by the score of 67-57.
Early speculation of the game fixated on the Wildcats’ potential difficulty guarding against the Knights’ gargantuan 7-foot-6 sophomore center Tacko Fall. If ‘Nova was apprehensive about facing UCF’s physicality, they certainly didn’t play like it. Opening the game with an early steal and dunk, Mikal Bridges proved his perimeter advantage for the Wildcats. Nailing a career high of 19 points against Nova’s previous game against Wake Forest, Bridges was quick to bring the heat against UCF—this time, Bridges focused his skill on maintaining rebounding efficiency (and, later on, even more fantastic steal and slams).
‘Nova emphasized forcing turnovers and making steals against UCF within the first half, but even so, UCF was eager to minimize and manage ‘Nova’s lead. Playing up the team’s sheer physical dominance, the Knights worked their height in the paint to secure rebounds. 6 points and 3 consecutive baskets for B.J. Taylor kept the Knights alive to move the game 18-18 with under 8 minutes left, yet Nova closed out the half dominantly, going on a 17-5 run.
Opening up the second half, the Knights were quick to attempt a redemption on the scoreboard. Nailing a 7-0 drive at the top of the second half, UCF worked to force 3 Villanova turnovers in 4 minutes. Despite forcing these turnovers, as a whole, UCF was unable to profit on their possessions. Enabling 11 turnovers from Villanova, UCF was only able to finish off with seven points. Conversely, Villanova forced only two more turnovers, with UCF conceding 13, but profited with 19 points.
Unfortunately for the Knights, their early scoring in the second half did not continue for its duration. Struggling to find the basket with prolonged periods of shooting inaccuracy, UCF paved the path for Nova to pad their lead. Notably, Donte DiVincenzo gave a taste of his skills as a guard for the Wildcats, securing 13 points, four rebounds, and nabbing the “Player of the Game” title. DiVincenzo provided a crucial presence underneath the basket, and was quick to complement the rapid passing of his teammates.
This is the first Charleston Classic championship for the Villanova Wildcats, and all in all, a solid 23rd birthday treat for Kris Jenkins.