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BUFFALO, N.Y. – One day after advancing to the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 for the fourth consecutive season, the top seeded Villanova Wildcats held a brisk70-minute workout on the court at KeyBank Center Friday.
Villanova (32-3 overall, 15-3 BIG EAST) meets No. 8 seed Wisconsin (26-9 overall, 12-6 Big Ten) in the second half of an NCAA Tournament doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at approximately 2:40 p.m. Notre Dame and West Virginia play the first game of the day at 12:10 p.m.
On Thursday night, the Wildcats shook off an uneven first half when they misfired on their first eight field goal attempts to pull away in the final 20 minutes to a 76-56 win over Mount St. Mary’s.
“We haven’t really watched the film of that,” noted senior All-American Josh Hart, who finished with 11 points against the Mountaineers after enduring first half foul trouble. “It’s in the past. There’s nothing we can do about it. Whatever happened, we have to focus on Wisconsin. We’re not dwelling on (last night) but what we have got to do on Saturday.”
The Badgers, meanwhile, downed Virginia Tech in the second game Thursday night to advance to Saturday’s matchup.
“We have great respect for this Wisconsin team,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. ‘This is a very well-coached team with great size that has won a lot of games, not just in the regular season, but in the NCAA Tournament. We know we’re in for a battle.”
The Wildcats can call on some NCAA Tournament experience of their own. Hart and classmate Kris Jenkins will be making their 12th such appearance in Saturday’s game. Darryl Reynolds has eight such games on his resume while sophomores Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson have each logged meaningful minutes in seven of those contests.
“I think my four years have given me a lot of insights into the college game,” stated Hart. “You can see certain things better than you could earlier in your career. You’re not as anxious or nervous in big games or tough situations. It really helps you be collected during games. It’s always great to have that experience.
“Jalen is just a sophomore but Coach (Wright) calls him an ‘old soul.’ When we have him out there with Darryl, Kris, me, Mikal, we have guys who have played in a lot of big games. Last year we played in the national championship game. Our guys have been around.”
This is just the second meeting between the two programs. The first took place at the 1995 Maui Invitational, where the Wildcats defeated the Badgers 66-58 on their way to the event’s championship.
The winner of this contest advances to the NCAA East Regional Semifinal, a.k.a., “Sweet 16” next Friday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“We’re looking forward to it,” added Jenkins.