No. 5 Villanova beats Lafayette behind Bridges, Brunson
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Any chance of a monumental upset was quickly extinguished.
Fifth-ranked Villanova shot 63 percent in the first half and 62 percent in the second half and never gave Lafayette a chance to even compete.
Mikal Bridges scored a career-high 24 points on 9-for-10 shooting and Villanova led from start to finish in a 104-57 victory over Lafayette Friday night at PPL Center.
“It wasn’t that they were playing bad defense,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We were just hitting deep 3s.”
Bridges continued his stellar play in all facets as he was 6 of 6 from 3-point land to go along with four rebounds and two steals.
“Both offensively and on defense, it’s part of being a leader now,” Bridges said. “I have to set the tone on both ends.”
Jalen Brunson added 22 points on 9 of 11 shooting. Omari Spellman contributed 15 and Eric Paschall had 14 for the Wildcats (3-0), who traveled about an hour from its campus to play a home game.
Villanova’s home arena on campus is undergoing a $60 million renovation this season, so the bulk of its home games are being played at the Wells Fargo Center.
Phil Booth also scored 11 points for the Wildcats.
“That score is not indicative of how hard it is to play that team,” Wright said.
Lafayette, which fell to 0-3, was led by Matt Klinewski with 16 points. The Leopards have now dropped their first three games to George Mason, NJIT and Villanova.
This particular game was the toughest, however.
“This is the third game of the year against who could be the best team in the country, who knows?” Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon said.
Paschall threw down a vicious dunk, Brunson hit a jumper and a 3-pointer and the lead was suddenly 63-23 with 17:53 remaining, forcing Lafayette to call timeout.
Villanova maintained its terrific shooting and pushed its advantage to 86-40 midway through the second half.
Shots just kept on dropping.
“They just didn’t hit the rim,” O’Hanlon said. “They swished it.”
Villanova came out red hot en route to a 22-10 lead after hitting eight of its first 10 shots.
By the second media timeout, the Wildcats extended their advantage to 28-12.
When Brunson drained a 3-pointer, the lead was 31-12 in favor of Villanova. Collin Gillespie’s deep 3 with 8:20 remaining pushed the lead to 39-16.
The rout was on.
Bridges had scored a career-high 23 points in Tuesday’s 113-77 victory over Nicholls State and he was virtually unstoppable in the first half on his way to a 16-point performance on 6-for-6 shooting. Bridges was active on both ends and his teammates seemed to feed off his energy.
“He’s really confident,” Wright said of Bridges. “It’s his time to be a leader on this team.”
Villanova rolled to a 56-23 halftime advantage thanks to 63 percent shooting overall and 63 percent from beyond the arc — 12 of 19.
Lafayette struggled (10 of 29) against the Wildcats’ stifling defense.
NOTES: Villanova coach Jay Wright improved to 6-0 all-time against Lafayette. ... Villanova is now 10-1 against the Leopards in the series which dates to 1922. ... Villanova has been ranked in the Top 25 every week since the opening week of December of 2013. ... Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon, in his 23rd season, was a co-captain on Villanova’s 1969-70 team. ... Lafayette F Matt Klinewski recently went over the 1,000-point plateau to become the 44th player in school history to achieve the milestone. ... Villanova will compete in the Battle for Atlantis beginning Wednesday against Western Kentucky in the tournament held in the Bahamas.