November 15, 2017 / 3:40 AM / in 8 months

No. 5 Villanova has no trouble with Nicholls State

No. 5 Villanova has no trouble with Nicholls State

PHILADELPHIA — The official statistics showed that Villanova’s young team shot 58 percent from the field.

There was far more growth on the defensive end where the fifth-ranked Wildcats blocked a school-record 13 shots on their way to a resounding 113-77 victory over Nicholls State Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The previous mark of 12 was achieved four times, most recently against Delaware in 2000.

“I think we have the potential to be a really good defensive team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I thought that was more athleticism than defensive technique.”

Mikal Bridges set a career-high with 23 points to lead six players in double figures. Bridges was 7 of 11 and the Wildcats were 42 of 73 overall.

“It’s something I don’t think about,” Bridges said of scoring. “I just try to go out and play as hard as I can. I try and defend and rebound.”

Donte DiVincenzo contributed 20 points and Jalen Brunson added 17 for the Wildcats, who improved to 2-0. Phil Booth had 12 and Eric Paschall 11 for Villanova. Collin Gillespie also chipped in with 10.

It was a balanced effort in a rout.

“Early on, we might not always look great,” Wright said. “By the end, I think we can be a good team.”

Nicholls State, which last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2014, was paced by Zaquavian Smith with 25 points. Roddy Peters added 17 and Tevon Saddler had 15.

“Coming here to play Villanova will end up being a great learning experience for us,” Nicholls State coach Richie Riley said. “Their culture is tremendous, second to none. We’ll take so much from this game and apply it.”

The Wildcats, who had eight different players score in the first half, bolted to a 54-30 lead at halftime and never looked back.

Booth dropped in a 3-pointer and followed with a steal and coast-to-coast layup for a 70-42 advantage with 15:58 remaining. Booth scored 20 points against North Carolina in the national championship game in 2016, which was won by Villanova when Kris Jenkins hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Booth missed the final 33 games last season with left knee inflammation and was granted a medical redshirt.

The Wildcats kept up their relentless pressure and DiVincenzo’s layup with 12:50 gave them a 76-45 lead.

Villanova hit 12 of its first 17 shots in the second half on its way to a commanding 88-51 lead.

The result was the Wildcats’ eighth straight win at the Wells Fargo Center.

“It’s a hard style to play against,” Wright said. “I thought we had great leadership, great energy.”

Villanova raced to a 35-11 lead thanks to a 19-2 spurt with 5:59 remaining in the first half.

Bridges led the way in the opening 20 minutes with a dominating performance — 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

The Wildcats shot a sizzling 59 percent (19 of 32) while Nicholls State struggled, going 12 of 33.

In addition to solid shooting, Villanova also was aggressive and attacked the basket throughout the first half, which resulted in 12 points. It missed only three of 15 free throws.

Nicholls State’s Lafayette Rutledge scored 23 points and drained seven threes in the opener, but was held to one point in the first half against Villanova. Rutledge missed all four of his 3-pointers.

NOTES: Villanova F Omari Spellman was named Big East Freshman of the Week after his 11-point, 11-rebound effort in Friday’s 75-60 win over Columbia. ... This was the first career meeting between these two schools. ... Nicholls State was picked 10th in the Southland Conference preseason poll. ... Villanova still has 10 games remaining at the Wells Fargo Center while its on-campus arena undergoes a $60 million renovation. ... Nicholls State second-year coach Richie Riley had been an assistant at Clemson. ... Villanova next plays Friday night against Lafayette in Allentown, Pa., about an hour from Philadelphia.

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