With 217 points over its last two games, No. 3 Villanova - and, in particular, swingman Mikal Bridges - certainly are catching the attention of the nation. The Wildcats begin play at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas on Wednesday afternoon with a matchup against Western Kentucky.
In its last two games, Villanova has defeated Nicholls 113-77 and Lafayette 104-57 with Bridges as the star in each contest. The junior went for 23 points in the first contest and 24 in the second, putting his days as a role player further behind him with each new career high. “He’s never lacked confidence, but he’s always played a complementary role and he’s always fine with that,” coach Jay Wright said after the victory against Lafayette. “I think he’s really confident that it’s his time to be a leader on this team and be a really aggressive player.” Bridges, who is 10-of-13 from 3-point range in the last two games, will obviously be the focus of a Western Kentucky team that enters off back-to-back wins.
TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT WESTERN KENTUCKY (2-1): Like Villanova, Western Kentucky already has matched up with Nicholls and, like Villanova, the Hilltoppers hung triple digits on the Colonels. Western Kentucky edged Nicholls 100-86 on Sunday behind a massive first-half lead (62-32 at intermission) and a dominant effort from 6-2 freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth (24 points on 9-of-11 shooting). The Hilltoppers only use eight players, but seven are averaging double-digit points on the young season, led by Dwight Coleby (14.7), who is shooting 65.4 percent from the floor.
ABOUT VILLANOVA (3-0): The Wildcats are a deep and talented team that, at the moment, is led by Bridges (18.3 points) and fellow junior guard Jalen Brunson (17.7). Brunson had 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting versus Lafayette and is 16-of-20 from the field over the last two outings. Freshman Omari Spellman notched a career-high 15 points against the Leopards and pulled down nine rebounds, narrowly missing his second double-double in three games.
1. The winner will take on either No. 16 Purdue or Tennessee in the next round on Thanksgiving Day.
2. Hollingsworth had been 6-of-20 from the field this season before his red-hot effort against Nicholls.
3. Each of Villanova’s top three scorers is shooting at least 60 percent from the floor.
PREDICTION: Villanova 97, Western Kentucky 83