Villanova Wildcats

Villanova stifled by Wisconsin's 'great defensive play' on Josh Hart

Villanova stifled by Wisconsin's 'great defensive play' on Josh Hart

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It was the final play of Josh Hart's career. The final time he touched the basketball in a Villanova uniform. The end of an era.

And it couldn't have gone worse.

After Wisconsin took a two-point lead on Nigel Hayes' layup with 12 seconds left, Villanova went to work on the potential equalizer in its NCAA Round of 32 meeting with the Badgers Saturday at KeyBank Center (see story).

The play broke down from the start.

"We wanted to get the ball to Jalen (Brunson) and go down to the half court and run a play," Hart said. "You know, they picked us up full court, and we couldn't get it to him. (Donte DiVincenzo) passed it to me, and we went into a ball screen. But Wisconsin made a heck of a defensive play."

As Hart dribbled across half court, he was picked up by 6-foot-8 forward Nigel Hayes. But Hayes was screened out of the play by Eric Paschall, leaving 6-foot-10 Ethan Happ on Villanova's national Player of the Year candidate with 6-foot-8 Vitto Brown to the left, also down in the paint.

"Nigel had him," Happ said. "Nigel picked up and they screened him, so we ended up switching it."

Hart, who would have had a clean look on a short jumper, briefly had a route to the rim, but it closed up quickly with Happ staying between Hart and the rim and Brown leaving Kris Jenkins in the left corner and dropping down low to help.

"I know he likes to go left and spin back, but he just stuck to his left hand the whole time," Happ said. "And then Vitto came over with great help and I walled him up and Vitto came over and got the almost tie-up but ended up blocking it."

Brown stuck his hand in as Hart went by with about six seconds left and the ball popped out.

Hart may have traveled even before he was tied up and lost the ball, but it wasn't called. 

Brown controlled the loose ball and was immediately fouled by DiVincenzo.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright said Hart did the right thing by driving to the basket instead of stopping for a short jumper.

"It's simple for us," Wright said. "If they let us get it to Jalen, we're going to run a play. If they don't, we're going to get it to Josh or Donte (DiVincenzo) and run a middle ball screen.

"Josh, down two, got all of the way to the rim, and that's what you want to do. You want to be aggressive going at the rim and try to score and get fouled. They made a great defensive play."

Brown said he and Happ were trying to be aggressive defensively in a game that was officiated very closely.

"The way some of the calls were going, we weren't sure if there would have been a foul in the end and so Ethan did a great job keeping his hands back and kind of taking the ambiguity out of so they wouldn't call that foul," he said.

"And then I figured he wasn't paying attention to me, so I kind of reached in there and had to hold it strong because DiVincenzo was coming strong to rip from me."

Brown made his first foul shot and missed the second with four seconds left to make it a 65-62 game.

DiVincenzo rebounded the miss, but Villanova was never able to get a potential game-tying shot off.

Villanova, which won a national title last year by making all the right plays in the final seconds, was eliminated this year because of its inability to make the right play in the final seconds.

Villanova entered Saturday's game 17-5 over the last four years in games decided by five or fewer points.

It's now 17-6 in five-point games, and incredibly, four of those six losses have come in tournament play -- to Seton Hall in the 2014 and 2015 Big East Tournaments, to North Carolina State in the 2015 NCAAs and Saturday to Wisconsin in the 2017 NCAA Tourney.

"They've made so many last second game-winning plays," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said.

"Going through the film, you look at the tight games and down the stretch how many game-winning plays they've made. And predominantly it had been in (Hart or Brunson's) hands or those two guys were somehow involved.  

"Those two guys typically either have the ball in their hands or are somehow involved in trying to make a play for them.

"You've got to give credit where credit's due. Those two guys are two terrific players. I've watched -- what are they 32-4? -- so 35 games, going through quite a few of them and watching them go downhill on a lot of people and get the ball in the paint.

"I watched Brunson in high school, and know what type of guard he is. And Josh Hart is a terrific player, too. That's how they played all year. A lot of teams had a hard time keeping them out of the paint."

No. 5 Villanova steamrolls Lafayette behind Mikal Bridges' career night

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No. 5 Villanova steamrolls Lafayette behind Mikal Bridges' career night

BOX SCORE

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon planned to switch defenses often in hopes of slowing down No. 5 Villanova.

It ended up not mattering what the Leopards did, not with the Wildcats shooting like this.

Mikal Bridges set a school record by hitting all six of his 3-point shots and scored a career-high 24 points in Villanova's 104-57 rout Friday night.

Jalen Brunson added 22 points and hit 4 of 6 3s in another dominant performance by the Wildcats (3-0), who made 16 of 30 from long range.

"I don't know if you shoot that way if you shoot with nobody in the gym," O'Hanlon said. "And they didn't hit the rim. They were all swishes. I don't think they knew what defense we were in."

Three nights after setting a school record with 13 blocked shots in a blowout of Nicholls, the versatile and deep Wildcats showed another strength and overwhelmed the Leopards (0-3).

Led by Bridges' 4-of-4 long-distance shooting, Villanova hit 11 of its first 14 3s in racing to a 39-16 lead. The Wildcats had a stretch of nine straight baskets being 3s en route to a 56-23 halftime lead.

"Early you start thinking, if we fall in love with that and now we're not making them, we're going to be in trouble," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "But we kept making them. Then you've got a big lead and the basket looks huge."

Bridges finished 9 of 10 from the field before he sat out the final 10 minutes. The junior bested his previous career-high by one point set Tuesday.

"He's never lacked confidence, but he's always played a complementary role and he's always fine with that," Wright said. "I think he's really confident that it's his time to be a leader on this team and be a really aggressive player."

Matt Klinewski had 16 points and six rebounds for Lafayette, which was 7 of 29 from 3-point range.

While it was a Villanova home game, it was played about 50 miles from campus at the PPL Center, home of minor league hockey's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was a 20-mile drive for Lafayette, but the Wildcats sure seemed at home.

Villanova spent much of the second half going inside to score. Omari Spellman had 15 points and nine rebounds and Eric Paschall had 14 points and eight boards.

Bridges has made 18 of 29 shots in three games and the Wildcats have eclipsed 100 points two straight times.

"My teammates are finding me in the right spot," Bridges said. "A lot of them have wide open shots and give me an extra pass. That's what we do and that's why I'm scoring."

Big picture
Lafayette: Try as a Patriot League school squaring off against one of the best teams in the nation and watching the opponent hit 9 of their first 11 3s, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon's alma mater never had a chance.

Villanova: The Wildcats have perimeter shooting, depth inside and play good defense. They've been dominant against inferior competition, and will finally get tested next week.

So many 3-pointers
Bridges surpassed Doug West in 1988 and John Celestand in 1999, each of whom went 5 of 5 from long range. Villanova finished one shy of the school record of 17 3s set against Lehigh on Nov. 27, 2005.

No luck
O'Hanlon fell to 0-6 against his alma mater. He still holds the Villanova record for assists in a game with 16 set against Toledo on Feb. 24, 1970.

Only six Division I coaches have been at their schools longer than O'Hanlon, in his 23rd season.

Up next
Lafayette visits Princeton on Wednesday.

Villanova faces Western Kentucky on Wednesday in the first of three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No. 19 Purdue and No. 3 Arizona are possible opponents the following two days.

No. 5 Villanova sets school record for blocks in rout of Nicholls

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No. 5 Villanova sets school record for blocks in rout of Nicholls

BOX SCORE

Mikal Bridges rejected consecutive shots by Roddy Peters in the lane, producing "oohs" from the crowd.

And No. 5 Villanova wasn't done, not even on this possession.

Omari Spellman brought the fans and bench players to their feet by swatting Tevon Saddler's follow attempt from behind, giving the Wildcats three blocks in 8 seconds and setting the tone in a record-setting 113-77 rout of Nicholls on Tuesday night.

"That's what we should be fired up about," Bridges said. "defensive things, not offensive."

Bridges set career highs with 23 points, four blocks and five steals, and Villanova (2-0) set a school record by blocking 13 shots. Spellman also had four rejections.

"We have the potential to be a very good defensive team," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "I think you saw some of that tonight. It was more athleticism tonight than defensive technique."

Donte DiVincenzo added 20 points, Jalen Brunson had 17 and the Wildcats had six players in double figures while shooting 58 percent from the field in their second straight blowout of an inferior opponent.

"I can't imagine many teams in the country being better than them," Nicholls coach Richie Riley said. "I think they have a chance to hang another banner. I think they're that good."

Zaquavian Smith scored 25 points and Peters had 17 for the Colonels (1-1), who trailed by as many as 38 points.

Villanova, which cruised past Columbia 75-60 on Friday, raced to a 22-9 lead and was never threatened. Bridges shot 4 of 7 from 3-point range and the Wildcats were 13 of 30 from behind the arc.

That's an improvement from the 7-of-32 long-distance shooting in the opener.

"A lot of extra passes," Wright said.

The Colonels, picked to finish 10th out of 13 teams in the Southland Conference, entered as a 32-point underdog and were quickly overwhelmed in the schools' first meeting.

With just over 8 minutes remaining in the first half, Nicholls had more turnovers (7) than field goals (5).

Shortly after the three quick blocks, Villanova led 35-11.

"When you play in games like this and you're a school like us, sometimes you get out there and you really want to do well so bad that you put yourself in a tough (situation)," Riley said. "Our guys over-penetrated and over-drove the ball and they made plays at the rim."

Big picture
Nicholls: Hours after Jay Clune was appointed Nicholls' new president, the basketball team collected a check to bring back to Thibodaux, Louisiana. But Riley's transfer-dominated team needs work to end a 19-year NCAA Tournament drought.

Villanova: Plenty of highlight dunks and impressive blocks in two easy wins to start the season. The Wildcats have a lot of weapons, but have yet to be tested.

Rejected
The Wildcats' previous team record was 12 blocks, done four times and most recently against Delaware in the 2000 NIT. The individual mark is 10 blocks by Harold Pressley against Providence on Jan. 11, 1986.

Defense MIA
Nicholls ranked 335th out of 351 teams last season by allowing 82.1 points a game. And while they won their opener 111-106 over Texas-Rio Grande Valley, they couldn't outshoot Villanova.

The Wildcats scored at will for much of the night, getting good looks inside and open 3s from the perimeter. The Colonels tried to push the pace, but they finished with 17 turnovers and drives to the rim often ended with a blocked shot.

Up next
Nicholls has its home opener Friday against Division II Spring Hill (Ala.).

Villanova faces Lafayette in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Friday before traveling to the Bahamas for three games in the Battle for Atlantis next week. The Wildcats could play No. 19 Purdue and No. 3 Arizona in the last two rounds.