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A Barrage of 3's Propels Wildcats Past Saint Joseph's 94-53
Omari Spellman
Dec. 2, 2017

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- A school record barrage of 3-pointers -- 19 in all -- helped lift No. 4 ranked Villanova to a 94-53 victory over Saint Joseph's (4-4 overall, 0-1 Philadelphia Big Five) in a contest played Saturday at Hagan Arena before a sold out crowd of 4,200. The Wildcats (8-0 overall, 2-0 Big Five) broke a close game open with a 27-2 spurt over the final minutes of the first half and the opening minutes of the second half.

After converting just 2-of-9 triple attempts to begin the day, the Wildcats went on to drop in their next 17-of- 26 attempts, including 10 in a row in the pivotal stretch. The 19 3-pointers -- dropped in by six different players - eclipsed the program record (17) established in a win over Lehigh in November 2005.

Redshirt juniors Mikal Bridges (18 points, nine rebounds) and Phil Booth (17 points, a career high eight rebounds and six assists) led the way. Omari Spellman -- who did not start the contest after missing a weight target by 1.2 pounds earlier in the week -- posted his second career double-double with 16 points -- including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc -- and 11 rebounds.

"We played great," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "They have two starters out and that's the bottom line. When you come into this environment, you don't know what the guys are going to react to. (Villanova) played great and they're down two key guys. That's what happened."

The Wildcats grabbed an early 9-4 lead after some good defensive work before Saint Joseph's answered with a 9-4 burst of its own to draw even at the first official timeout. Brunson helped Villanova regain the advantage at 18-13 after 8:23 of action in the first period and the Wildcats never did relinquish the edge as Saint Joseph's remained close. The Hawks pulled to within 29-27 after a traditional 3-point play by James Demery at the 3:41 mark of the first period.

"It felt like it could be turning into one of those Big Five nights," Wright said. "We came ready to play but they really out-scrapped us early. We got a couple of fouls diving for loose balls because they got there first, We said in the huddle that we've got to weather this."

The Wildcats did that especially well over the final three plus minutes of the half, closing on a 13-0 run, ignited by 3-pointers from Booth, Bridges and a pair from Spellman to expand the lead to 41-27 at halftime.

"I learned from the older guys how hard it was to play in this environment and how much we have to stick together," said Booth. "That's what we tried to do."

The start of the second half resembled the end of the first. The Wildcats picked up right where they left off, reeling off five straight points in the first minute and extending that to a 14-2 edge over the next three minutes. The ball movement was crisp and Villanova converted its first four 3-pointers of the half. After opening the game by converting just 2-of-10 from long range, the `Cats reeled off 10 straight, helping to extend the lead to 55-29.

"We don't think about the shots falling," stated Bridges. "It just happens from our defense. We kept looking for each other and making shots. The defensive end kind of helped us out."

The defensive numbers were impressive. Saint Joseph's connected on just 21-of-64 field goal attempts (..328) and were 5-of-24 from beyond the 3-point arc (. 208). VU also won the battle of the boards convincingly (49-28).

The Wildcats now turn their attention to a prominent matchup of nationally ranked teams that takes place Tuesday night as part of the Jimmy V Classic. VU takes on Gonzaga for the first time (7 p.m./ESPN and 610 Sports Radio).

"That's one of the reasons I'm proud of the guys," Wright stated. "I know people are talking about that game because they are asking me about it. But our guys have great respect for Saint Joseph's and the kinds of battles these Big Five games are."

The 2017-18 Villanova Basketball season is presented by KeyBank.