Columbia

Undermanned Penn State cruises past Columbia at home

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Undermanned Penn State cruises past Columbia at home

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Shep Garner scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half and Penn State beat Columbia 79-65 on Friday.

Lamar Stevens added 14 points and Mike Watkins had 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Nittany Lions (4-0) who played without starting guards Tony Carr and Josh Reaves.

Garner was 10 of 18 from the floor with five 3-pointers.

Mike Smith led Columbia with 18 points while Quinton Adlesh and Nate Hickman added 11 apiece for the Lions (1-2).

Penn State led for all but 4:52 and by as many as 14 midway through the first half. Columbia chipped away to cut the halftime deficit to 38-35 but the Nittany Lions opened the second half with a 13-5 run over the first 4:14 to take control.

Carr sat out with a sprained ankle he suffered on Wednesday while Reaves was out for an undisclosed reason.

Big picture
Columbia: The Lions need to do everything better if they want to compete in the Ivy League. Columbia hasn't won back-to-back games since Jan. 27-28 last season. The Lions won two in a row just twice a year ago when they went 5-9 in conference play.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions' depth was tested for the first time this season with Carr and Reaves unable to play. Nazeer Bostick and Jamari Wheeler played well in their places and Satchel Pierce has been tough to play against down low with Watkins in early foul trouble.

Up next
Columbia: Travels to Army on Tuesday.

Penn State: Plays Pittsburgh in the Legends Classic at the Barclays center in New York on Monday.

Villanova puts fresh faces on display in season-opening win over Columbia

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Villanova puts fresh faces on display in season-opening win over Columbia

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Villanova head coach Jay Wright used the word “interesting” a few times during his postgame press conference following the No. 6 Wildcats’ season-opening 75-60 win over Columbia on Friday (see observations).

All of their home games will be interesting, he said, now that the Pavilion is undergoing renovations and they have to change their routine to play at the Wells Fargo Center, as they did Friday night. 

And the makeup of the team? Well, that’s interesting, too, as four freshmen have found their way into the regular rotation: Omari Spellman, Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Jermaine Samuels.

Against Columbia, the new quartet combined to play 58 minutes with Spellman and Gillespie, especially, showing a lot of promise.

“Some of our young guys are getting their first taste,” Wright said. “That’s what we’re gonna have to do this year.”

This is somewhat of a new situation for Wright, whose teams don’t rely on one-and-done players like other nationally renowned programs. Freshmen certainly get the chance to start right away, as Jalen Brunson, now a junior leader, did two years ago on the Wildcats’ national championship team. But Villanova has never been quite this reliant on young players in Wright’s tenure.

“We’ve gotta get young guys experience,” the ’Nova coach said. “It might look bad early. It might hurt early. But we have the potential in the end to be a good team.

Nobody on ’Nova is more highly touted than Spellman, who got the start down low and finished with a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) in his first collegiate game. 

Spellman has more experience than the other three freshmen since he’s a redshirt freshman who was academically ineligible last season. But he displayed the same kind of early jitters, making some mistakes before getting calming pep talks from Brunson and Eric Paschall.  

“I like that he rebounded the ball,” Wright said. “For a big guy, that’s the most difficult offense to guard and he did it in his first game. … Decision-making, communicating defensively, all those things, he’ll get better. He’s just gotta play. He hasn’t played a game in two years.”

Gillespie’s college career also got off to an inauspicious start as he airballed his first shot. But Brunson watched the freshman guard closely after that play and was impressed that he couldn’t detect a negative reaction.

He was even more impressed when Gillespie drained his next two three-pointers.

“His confidence is off the charts,” Brunson said. “You don’t see a change in his demeanor or anything. Not just Collin but all the young guys. We’re gonna get on them. As leaders, we have to step up and show them how to play Villanova basketball. And it starts with me.”

Brunson, a first-team preseason All-American, certainly showed a lot of leadership abilities on Friday, and took matters into his own hands when needed, too. He finished with 14 points, second on the team to Paschall’s 15. 

Wright is counting on big things from the two, along with fellow upperclassmen Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges (who scored eight points apiece), as well as sophomore Donte DiVincenzo, who came off the bench to score 13 points but who Wright said will get “starter minutes” throughout the season.

“Having Jalen and the other experienced guys is really [big]. If you’re just depending on the young guys, we’d be in trouble,” Wright said. “They will make those guys better. They do a great job leading those guys.”

Villanova fans didn’t see as much out of Samuels or Cosby-Roundtree, who were both held off the scoring column. But Wright said Cosby-Roundtree, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Philly’s Neumann Goretti, has a chance to be a “really special player in our program.” 

And he was pleased he didn’t really make any mistakes and that the rest of the freshmen showed poise, great passing ability and basketball smarts in a challenging first game against a disciplined opponent.

“It’s not that easy for guys to play for us right away,” Wright said. “But they’re picking things up. It was really good tonight.

“They’re excited, they’re freshmen. They’re going to get a lot better.”

No. 6 Villanova-Columbia observations: Tons of balance in season-opening win

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No. 6 Villanova-Columbia observations: Tons of balance in season-opening win

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Although it's ranked No. 6 in the nation, Villanova had a lot of question marks heading into the 2017-18 season.

The Wildcats answered some of them in a 75-60 season-opening defeat of Columbia on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center, but still have plenty of things to figure out.

• Not surprisingly, it was first-team preseason All-American Jalen Brunson who set the tone for the ’Cats. The junior point guard opened the game with a three and closed the first half with a sweet midrange jumper to give Villanova a 32-23 halftime lead. He finished with 14 points in 34 minutes.

• Eric Paschall, a somewhat surprise addition to the starting lineup, had a couple of dunks and a big block to end the first half, and showed great hustle throughout the game. The Fordham transfer led Villanova with 15 points and could be primed for a big year after being more of a role player last season.

• Phil Booth, back after a season lost to injury, showed a little bit of rust with eight points on 3 of 9 shooting.

• Mikal Bridges had the play of the game midway through the second half, showing off long, gangly arms and athletic ability with an incredible baseline dunk.

• The Wildcats took a lot of threes, as they’re prone to do, but only connected on seven of their 32 attempts.

• Donte DiVincenzo, who didn’t start, was held scoreless in the first half, but helped the Wildcats run away with the game after the break with 13 points.

• Freshman Collin Gillespie, a prized prospect out of the Philadelphia Catholic League, showed off his sweet stroke right away, hitting a couple of three-pointers in the first half to help stave off a pesky Lions squad, including one that broke a 9-9 tie.

• The Wildcats’ other top newcomer, redshirt freshman Omari Spellman, had a tougher start, missing an early gimme and making a lazy pass that led to a turnover and transition Columbia bucket. But the big man, whose first collegiate basket came on a put-back with 5:40 left in the first half, looked far more assertive after the break, with Brunson getting in his ear to offer tips. He ended up with a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

• Columbia kept it interesting early with top guard Mike Smith helping the Lions tie the game at 9-9 with under 14 minutes left in the first half as ’Nova struggled shooting the basketball. The Lions, who may end up competing with Penn for a berth in the Ivy League Tournament, certainly look like they could be a formidable team in the Ivy League.

• Friday’s game marked the first time in program history that Villanova opened a season at the Wells Fargo Center, because of renovations on its on-campus Pavilion home. There was a bit of a different vibe than the February games the Wildcats usually play here vs. Big East rivals, but the crowd was quite large for a non-conference game and enjoyed singing along with the Villanova band.

• The Wildcats are now 44-32 all-time at the Wells Fargo Center. They have 11 more regular-season contests in the building, including all nine of its Big East home games.

• Columbia shocked Villanova the last time the two teams meet, upsetting it, 75-57, at the Pavilion in 2012.

• Villanova returns to action Tuesday against Nicholls State — a team 323 spots below it in the Pomeroy rankings.

• The Sixers may be out on the West Coast but that didn’t stop a “Trust the Process” chant from breaking out in the final minutes.