Philadelphia, PA – It’s tough to blame Villanova for their sluggish start in an 89-69 win over Big East foe Providence. Most of the city is still hungover from the Philadelphia Eagles’ NFC Championship win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. And while a mid-week loss at home to an unranked team would usually be a major story, for the next two weeks very few in Philadelphia would notice. So down 24-15 to a physically demanding Providence team, it looked like Villanova might succumb to the scenario. But great teams rarely lay down and the Wildcats stormed into halftime with a 39-30 lead and never looked back.
Junior Eric Paschall led the Wildcats with 17 points, five assists, four steals and three blocks (a team-high in all four categories). The 6-7 forward has been a revelation for Villanova in 2018. Shooting just 2-of-27 from deep to start the season, Paschall has shot 10-of-18 since and has turned into a serious three point threat. The uber-athletic Paschall has completely reworked his mechanics and if he continues to improve he will have a shot at a two-way contract.
Paschall wasn’t the only Wildcat that filled the stat line Tuesday night. Junior forward Mikal Bridges put up 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and four steals. The 6-7 Bridges has turned into a star this year and is shooting up NBA draft boards. Everyone is aware of his impressive length and athleticism. But it is the redshirt junior’s poise and shooting ability that have stood out this year. Bridges is shooting 50 percent from the field taking almost twice as many shots as he did last season. He is taking almost twice as many three pointers per game as well and is shooting at a 43 percent clip. With the ball in his hands much more this season, Bridges is only turning the ball over 1.5 times per game. An improved handle and stroke have turned Bridges into much more than just a 3 and D NBA prospect.
The other potential ‘Nova first rounder was less than impressive against a physical and athletic Providence squad. 6-3 junior and player of the year candidate Jalen Brunson struggled to finish against Providence’s cache of strong and athletic bigs. Brunson’s ability to manage a game and shoot the three are well known, but his below average athleticism is a serious red flag. Still, should Brunson enter this year’s draft, he should find his way onto an NBA roster.
For the Friars, seniors Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsey lead the way with 16 and 14 points respectively. Sophomore Alpha Diallo added 12 points and eight rebounds. The 6-6-7 guard was impressive on the glass but needs to improve what looks to be a broken jumper.
With the loss, Providence drops to 14-7 and 5-3 in the Big East. The Friars have a week off then continue a difficult three game Big East road trip against Seton Hall and then Marquette. The top ranked Wildcats improve to 19-1 and 6-1 in the Big East and head to Marquette Sunday for arguably their toughest test yet in the Big East.
This article was written by Robert Smuckler, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can follow us on Facebook, or on twitter. We are looking for those interested in our basketball scout certification program. For information contact us and forward your resume.