Freshmen Lead Villanova to 77-56 Win Over Boston College

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Quinn Burns/Villanovan Photography

Mark Armstrong scored 13 points in the win.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

NEWARK, NJ — For years, Villanova has cultivated its identity by relying on experience. 

On Saturday in the Never Forget Tribute Classic against Boston College, the Wildcats were led by their youth.

Freshman forward Cam Whitmore led all scorers with 19 points. Fellow freshman Mark Armstrong followed him with 13 of his own. The two combined for 12 of ‘Nova’s first 16 points as the Wildcats ran away with a comfortable, 77-56 victory.

“We have a bunch of guys who can really score,” head coach Kyle Neptune said. “So we never worry about scoring. We know, at any point in time, Mark can go off or Cam or Caleb (Daniels) or Brandon Slater, or Eric (Dixon). We have a bunch of guys that can make shots or do something at a high level.”

Armstrong was motivated early. Playing his first collegiate game in his home state of New Jersey, the freshman scored Villanova’s first seven points, singlehandedly erasing an early deficit.

“We play 94 (feet) by fifty,” Armstrong said. “… It was just a great atmosphere, playing with my teammates and coming back to Jersey, just playing with Villanova and playing Villanova basketball.”

Once Whitmore came off the bench, the projected lottery pick took over. Just two minutes into his third collegiate game, he asserted himself by dribbling through a double team and attempting a two-handed slam over a Boston College defender. Whitmore was fouled and couldn’t convert, but Eagles defenders consistently gave him a few feet of separation, allowing him to make several threes.

“At first, I split the defense and I saw the defender there and just knew I had to rise up,” Whitmore said of the play. “So that’s really what I do.”

Graduate guard Caleb Daniels and redshirt junior forward Eric Dixon were also in double figures for the ‘Cats, both scoring 12. The final freshman of Villanova’s trio just missed out, as Brendan Hausen scored nine on three threes.

While Villanova led comfortably for most of the game, the Wildcats didn’t truly pull away until the start of the second half. The Wildcats shot 46% from the field in the final 20 minutes, outscoring the Eagles, 37 – 26.

Key to Villanova’s success was the turnover battle. The Wildcats forced 14 Eagles turnovers and turned it into 15 points, while only having seven turnovers of their own. Boston College only scored two points off turnovers.

“They capitalized on some of our decision making and shot selection,” Eagles head coach Earl Grant said. “They went on kind of 6-2 runs, they did it three times. And we weren’t able to do the same.”

Neptune opened up his bench in the final minutes, giving time to all twelve players on the roster. Walk-on Collin O’Toole made his Villanova debut, playing the final five seconds.

The Wildcats have the week off after the game, next playing on Saturday at Hagan Arena against St. Joe’s (4:00 p.m., CBSSN). With a win, Villanova will earn a share of the Big 5 title, sharing the championship with Temple.

Villanova has now won three straight games, returning to .500 after a 2-5 start. The winning streak has coincided with Whitmore’s return from a wrist injury.

“Yeah, I was itching to play,” Whitmore said. “Itching to help the team out and just contribute in any type of way possible, defensive end, offensive end. And that’s what we did. We got the job done and got a blowout win.”