December 23, 2017 / 5:07 AM / 3 months ago

No. 1 Villanova runs away from Hofstra

No. 1 Villanova runs away from Hofstra

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — For about five minutes of game time, Jay Wright’s return to Hofstra for the first time as Villanova head coach wasn’t going as planned.

The Pride took an early lead and and were ahead after the first timeout break.

For a moment, at least.

Then Donte DiVincenzo hit a quick 3-pointer out of the break, giving the top-ranked Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish, and Wright and Co. capped off “an emotional night” with a 95-71 victory over Hofstra.

Coming into the game, Wright — who coached the Pride from 1994-2001 but resisted scheduling a game against his former team — was more emotional, more distracted than usual.

“This game for me personally, there was a lot of emotion,” Wright said. “I told the guys a few days ago, ‘I’m messed up on this one.’ We’re usually really focused, I’m usually really focused, and I tried to be. But coming back here, there were so many great feelings and emotions.”

After the Wildcats claimed back the lead and rolled, there were even more emotions.

Five players, led by Mikal Bridges’ 20 points, scored in double figures for the Wildcats, who remained undefeated at 12-0. Omari Spellman finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from long range, and Phil Booth added 17, including four threes. DiVincenzo had 16 off the bench for the Wildcats, whose bench outscored Hofstra’s, 22-13.

Villanova shot 47.9 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from 3-point range.

“Not to be a master of the obvious, but they really shoot the ball,” Pride head coach Joe Mihalich said. “They just shoot the ball. They’re making threes, too. They spread the floor out. The way they shoot the ball, I was just kidding with Jay — we both coached against John Chaney in Philly a lot of years, and he always said, ‘Shooters win the war.’”

Justin Wright-Foreman had 25 points to lead Hofstra, which struggled with turnovers, finishing with 13 for the game. Center Rokas Gustys added 11 points for the Pride, their only other player in double figures. Villanova held Hofstra’s Eli Pemberton, who Wright singled out as a focus after the game, to just nine points.

“We’ve seen all these upsets,” Wright said. “And this is the kind of team that can do it. They’ve got great guards and the other players play their roles. Those guards can control the tempo, and they can get hot.

“Our guys understand that. They were smart. They respect them. We did a decent job on Wright-Foreman and a better job on Pemberton.”

After going ahead 14-13 with 12:56 left in the first half, Villanova went on a 38-18 run the rest of the first half, as Bridges, Booth and Spellman each had double figures by the break.

“They were switching up a lot,” said Booth, who hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half. “They were very aggressive in their passing lanes. We were just trying to get in guys’ vision. We were able to knock down a couple shots.”

NOTES: Villanova moved to 5-0 in the all-time series against Hofstra; the two teams last met in 1997-98 in an 86-74 Villanova win. Wright was the head coach for the Pride at the time. ... Villanova opens Big East play after a brief Christmas break, heading to DePaul on Dec. 27. ... Hofstra has a long layoff before beginning Colonial Athletic Association play on Dec. 30 at William & Mary. ... Villanova has won 18 of its last 19 games, dating back to last season, including this year’s 12-0 start.

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