No. 1 Villanova routs Hofstra behind Bridges and 5 others
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — As Jay Wright recalled, the proposal was made by Ed Manetta.
Essentially, the question was: Would the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats want to return to his Long Island roots by bringing his team to the Nassau Coliseum for a game?
It was an offer he could not pass up.
“I said, ‘Yeah, it’s perfect.’ And I said, ‘Could we play Hofstra?’” Wright said after No. 1 Villanova remained unbeaten with a 95-71 rout of the Pride on Friday night at the Nassau Coliseum.
Wright, now in his 17th season at Villanova, compiled a 122-85 record in seven seasons at Hofstra, and still retains ties to the Long Island school.
“Hofstra worked (its) schedule so we can play this game,” said Wright, who repeatedly emphasized that he would not bring Villanova to play Hofstra just to satisfy his ego. “I wouldn’t want Villanova people to ever think I would take this game — Villanova is not my team. It’s not my school. I just work for them. It’s not my right to take them to a place I love. So it worked out for me and I’m thrilled we were able to do it.”
What he saw on the court was also relatively pleasing to him. Mikal Bridges scored 20 points and was one of five players in double figures for Villanova (12-0).
Omari Spellman had 19 points in 31 minutes, Phil Booth finished with 17, Donte DiVincenzo had 16 and Jalen Brunson added 14 points.
The win marked the fifth time this season that Villanova has scored at least 90 points in a game. The Wildcats’ season high for points scored is 113 on Nov. 14 against Nicholls State.
“I feel good. I feel like we can get a lot better. I think our guys understand that. This was a good win against a good team,” Wright said. “We know we can get better and (the players) know we can get better.”
Justin Wright-Foreman had 25 points for the Pride (7-5), who have lost two straight. Rokas Gustys added 11.
“We’re disappointed,” Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. “You can’t make mistakes against this team.”
The Wildcats led 52-31 at halftime after Booth drilled a buzzer-beating 3 from 25 feet.
Villanova made 18 of 35 shots in the half, including 8 of 18 from 3-point range.
“That one possession was way more valuable than any practice,” Wright said. “Phil was the third option.”
The Wildcats began the second half by knocking down 5 of 8 shots in the first 4:32 and three of the five field goals were 3s.
After Villanova pushed its lead to 69-43 on Bridges’ layup, Hofstra scored the next seven points, highlighted by Hunter Sabety’s putback dunk of a missed dunk by Wright-Foreman.
Later, Eli Pemberton followed Jalen Ray’s missed 3 with a putback jam of his own to cut the deficit to 82-62. From that point, though, Villanova went on a 13-9 run to end the game.
“Hofstra is a tough team to play,” Wright said. “Scrappy. Joe has a great way to prepare for you. They prepare. They know all of your cuts. They change up their defenses. You can’t look good.
“I think that’s why that team, when they get to their league, is going to have a chance to win it.”
The Wildcats outscored Hofstra 43-40 in the second half, and finished the game having made 47.9 percent of its shots from the field (34 of 71) and 47.1 percent of its 3s (16 of 34).
“The way they shoot the ball,” Wright-Foreman said in response to a question about what stood out about Villanova. “Overall, a great team.”
Hofstra: The Pride’s early season has been a study in momentum, both positive and negative. Hofstra won its first three games before dropping three straight. The Pride, then, won four in a row before losing their last two.
Villanova: Among the reasons the Wildcats have been a perennial NCAA Tournament team during the Jay Wright Era has been their success in early season, non-conference play. Villanova improved to 61-3 in non-conference play dating to the 2013-14 season.
Hofstra: The Pride fell to 0-5 all-time against the Wildcats. Friday night’s game was the first between the programs since Dec. 27, 1997, when the Pride - then coached by Wright - dropped an 86-74 decision.
Villanova: Despite the game taking place 132 miles northeast of Philadelphia in Uniondale, Villanova was the home team.
Hofstra: Begins Colonial Athletic Association play Saturday at William & Mary.
Villanova: Tips off Big East play Wednesday night at DePaul.
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