The Villanova Wildcats’ barnstorming tour through the Big 5 continued on Sunday afternoon. Despite a whale of an effort from the La Salle Explorers, the Wildcats held steady. They notched their 10th win of the season and 21st straight Big 5 win with a 77-68 result over the Explorers.
La Salle gave Villanova just about all they could handle. In Sunday’s game, the Explorers and Wildcats changed leads 13 times and the game was tied eight times. La Salle actually held the lead at the half, 38-37, but were outscored 40-30 in the final 20 minutes.
Villanova had three players with at least 17 points. Phil Booth was unconscious, scoring 18 points and needed just six shots to do so. He was 3-4 from the 3-point line and 7-7 from the free throw line. Donte DiVincenzo notched a double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. And lastly, Jalen Brunson scored 17 points and was 7-10 from the charity stripe. Mikal Bridges had a bit of an off day. While he had 10 points, he needed 11 shots to do so. Bridges still was able to get eight rebounds and two assists while committing only two turnovers in 37 minutes.
B.J. Johnson and Amar Stukes led the way for the Explorers in the loss. Johnson and Stukes had 21 and 16 points respectively. Pookie Powell, who fouled out, finished with 12.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Villanova suffered from a slow start again but still prevailed
The Wildcats were a bit plagued from the get go, as they’ve been a few times this season. That said, the resolve on this team is evident. They still were able to pull away and win by nearly double digits over their Big 5 foe. It’s clear that you’re going to need to play a perfect game for 40 minutes to take the Wildcats down. So far, no one’s been able to do that.
Phil Booth is gathering momentum
We know how good Booth can be. After all, he led the team in their National Championship victory two seasons ago. But if you hadn’t noticed, the Baltimore native is starting to really get it together. In his last five games, he’s shot 55.1 percent (27-49 FG) from the field. That includes a 48 percent (12-25 3PT FG) mark from the perimeter. If he keeps this rolling, look out.
Their stiffest Big 5 test awaits them
The Temple Owls are the only thing standing in the way of Villanova’s quest for five straight Big 5 titles. The Owls may not let it happen easily. They’re 6-2 this season and have racked up some quality wins. They’re 5-0 against Top 100 KenPom teams this season, including wins over the Clemson Tigers (#34) and Auburn Tigers (#41). With the game being at the Liacouras Center on Wednesday, expect a hostile environment that ‘Nova will have to tackle if they want to win the Big 5 outright yet again.