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No. 4 Villanova dismantles No. 12 Gonzaga in Jimmy V Classic

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No. 4 Villanova dismantles No. 12 Gonzaga in Jimmy V Classic

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges hit Gonzaga with a dunk that rocked the Garden and followed with a block that sapped the Zags' spirit.

Against an NCAA title game finalist and in prime time on basketball's biggest stage, Bridges had his coming out performance as one of the top players in the nation.

Just check the replay of that sequence for confirmation.

"I just saw a lane and tried to go up and be strong," Bridges said.

Bridges hit five 3s and scored a career-high 28 points to lead No. 4 Villanova to an 88-72 victory over No. 12 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (9-0) flexed their muscle on familiar turf and proved again they are again national championship contenders in their first real test of the season.

Bridges, a 6-foot-7 junior guard, put on a show in front of scores of NBA scouts and flashed a lottery-pick worthy game. His defining moment came in the second half: Bridges slashed the lane and unleashed a monster right-handed dunk over 6-11 center Jacob Larsen. Gonzaga's Josh Perkins tried the same move on the next set only to have Bridges swat the ball out of bounds with a block that had the Nova fans that filled MSG roaring on each replay.

"Ever since my freshman year, I've laid the ball up a lot and coaches, the seniors, they used to get on me for that," Bridges said.

Not anymore.

Bridges made 8 of 14 shots in the first meeting between two programs that have ranked among the best over the last 15 years. Villanova won the 2016 national championship and the Zags lost the 2017 title game to North Carolina.

Bridges was such a dominant presence, he even startled one Zag into a turnover when he heard footsteps on a fastbreak.

"He probably could have done more of this last year," coach Jay Wright said. "He's the leader. He's the captain. So he's playing with a lot more freedom. Aggressiveness, as he says."

Zach Norvell Jr. led Gonzaga (7-2) with 22 points and Perkins had 16.

"They put it on us pretty good," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

Bridges cut off the Bulldogs each time they made a small run. The Zags inched to seven early in the second half and Bridges connected on a 3. He came up with a tough bucket inside and drew a foul on one possession and followed with a 3 on the next to make it a 10-game game.

Bridges dunk-and-block in front of the scouts destroyed whatever mojo Gonzaga had left and the Wildcats won for an NCAA-best 109th time since 2014.

"We don't care who's out in the crowd. We play for each other," Bridges said

The Wildcats played every bit like a national championship favorite in a first half where they picked apart the Zags. Bridges had 12 points, Phil Booth had 11 of his 20 points and the Wildcats hit six 3s to build a 43-30 lead.

Villanova is more than a few NBA-ready scorers carrying the offense. Eric Paschall missed both of his shots in the half but it was his kickout passes on consecutive possessions that led to 3s from Booth and Bridges. Donte DiVincenzo made it three straight 3s that brought the Nova fans to their feet.

Booth, who took a medical redshirt last season, proved his twice surgically repaired left knee was fine on a high-flying dunk and even the players got loud at the Garden: Villanova's deep reserves bolted from the bench and bellowed "Charge! Charge! Charge!" late in the half and sure enough the foul was called on Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura.

The Wildcats made the short 105-mile trip compared to nearly 2,600 miles for the Zags and had the decided fan support at MSG. The Wildcats, a regular at the Garden in the Big East Tournament, could hoist that trophy in front of the faithful again in March in New York.

Big picture
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs lost their second game after losing just one in the regular season on the way to the title game. The Bulldogs were picked this year to finish second in the WCC, behind archrival Saint Mary's.

Villanova: The Wildcats followed a school-record 19 3s in their last game against Saint Joseph's with 10 against Gonzaga. What's it going to take to lose? "Us relaxing," Bridges said.

D-Zag-ster
The Wildcats shot 52 percent from the field and became the first team in 65 games to shoot better than 50 percent against the Zags. Gonzaga starters Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson fouled out.

Up next
Gonzaga: The Zags play against Pac 12 Washington on Sunday.

Villanova: The Wildcats look to extend their dominance in Philadelphia's city series Sunday against La Salle.

No. 4 Villanova 'psyched' for first-ever game vs. No. 12 Gonzaga

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No. 4 Villanova 'psyched' for first-ever game vs. No. 12 Gonzaga

Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, Gonzaga (161 wins) and Villanova (151) are the first- and third-winningest teams in Division I basketball.

On Tuesday, they will meet for the first time.

The No. 4 Wildcats and No. 12 Bulldogs face each other in the first game — Syracuse-Connecticut is the other — of the annual Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Zags (7-1) boast wins over Ohio State, Texas and then-No. 25 Creighton. Their only loss was to Florida, now ranked fifth, in a 111-105 double-overtime thriller.

This is the first real test for the Wildcats (8-0) — and it's the biggest one on Gonzaga's remaining schedule.

Potential Wildcats matchups with Arizona and Purdue never materialized in the Bahamas. Instead, when the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket was busted, Villanova beat Northern Iowa for the title.

The Wildcats' next toughest non-conference opponent is Temple next week.

This Gonzaga team hasn't had quite the expected drop-off from last year's team that lost to North Carolina in the national title game.

"I walk out of here knowing we can compete against anybody in the country now and we did not know that coming in," Few told The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review after his team beat Texas to claim third place in the PK80 tournament. "We hadn't really played anybody coming in.

"There were some question marks but if you go back to our scrimmage (vs. current No. 7 Texas A&M) and now this (tourney), I think we've proven we can definitely play with anybody in the country."

That theory will be tested on Thursday.

Villanova is coming off a 94-53 thrashing of Saint Joseph's.

Slowing the Wildcats shooters will be a challenge for the Bulldogs.

"They have a way of trying to win every possession," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said, according to Phillynews.com. "If our kids want to know what the top looks like, that's it.

"There's nothing they miss."

The Wildcats didn't miss a lot on Saturday, pouring in a school-record 19 3-pointers while outscoring the Hawks 57-16 from long range.

In its 91-74 win over Creighton on Friday, Gonzaga gave up 12 3-pointers.

"We knew they were a really good transition team," Zags forward Killian Tillie said after scoring 22 points in the win. "It's a different way of playing. We had to get back on defense really quickly. We had to adapt to them."

The Zags and Wildcats are both ranked in the top 26 in the nation in field goal percentage.

"I think it's going to be a great game," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said, according to the school's website. "At every position, they are operating at a high level. They have depth and are probably as efficient an offensive team as we have played. It's definitely going to be the best team we have played this year.

"It will be a great challenge for us. We're psyched."

The two coaches are close, and Few credits Wright with helping him navigate last year's Final Four.

"I spoke to Jay before we went to the Final Four," Few said Monday on the College Hoops Today Podcast. "I spoke to him and he told me what to expect and what the experience was going to be like. He was great. We had an unbelievable experience with the way we handled that weekend. I wouldn't do anything differently if we're fortunate enough to ever go back."

Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert is uncertain to be on the court Tuesday.

Kispert, a freshman who started the Zags' first seven games, missed the win over Creighton with an ankle injury.

Villanova maintains high national ranking after dominant week

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Villanova maintains high national ranking after dominant week

A pair of Big 5 drubbings last week wasn't enough for Villanova to move up in Monday's AP poll. The Wildcats remained the No. 4 team in the nation, behind Duke, Kansas and Michigan State.

The top four remains unchanged. Duke (10-0) again received all 65 first-place votes.

Villanova easily beat Penn, 90-62, last Wednesday in a rare game at tiny Jake Nevin Field House. On Saturday, 'Nova had an even more convincing win over Saint Joseph's, winning 94-53.

Jay Wright's team is 8-0 this season and has won 26 consecutive non-conference games in the regular season.

Villanova has a challenging week ahead with a marquee matchup Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden against No. 12 Gonzaga (7 p.m. on ESPN).

The Wildcats' only other game this week is Sunday afternoon against La Salle.