Wildcats Earn First Win in “The Finn”


Courtesy of Henry Haligowski

Wildcats Earn First Win in “The Finn”

Daniel Mezzalingua

The Villanova Wildcats beat the Morgan State Bears, 100-77, in their season opener at the brand new Finneran Pavilion Tuesday night. The atmosphere at the Cats’ new home court was electric.

Sophomore guard Collin Gillespie cashed a three-pointer for the team’s first points of the game. From there, it was the Eric Paschall show. The senior forward used his 6’8,” 255 lb. body frame to put up 19 points on 6-6 shooting (1-1 3PT) along with 4 rebounds in his 14 minutes of the first half, including two thunderous dunks that energized the crowd. Paschall finished with 24 points and seven boards. 

Senior guard Phil Booth also helped lead the way in the first half by contributing 11 points on 4-7 shooting.

Despite Paschall’s monstrous first half performance, the Wildcats faced heavy pressure from the Morgan State defense. The Bears forced 10 first-half turnovers from the Wildcats, while Morgan State themselves had seven. The Bears were able to rattle players with their full-court press.

“It’s experience of guys playing together.  That’s usually what young teams do—turn the ball over,” Jay Wright, head coach of the Wildcats, said. “In the first half, they had 14 points off our turnovers. … Our offense was killing us on the defensive end. Give [Morgan State] credit there. They were aggressive defensively, but we’ll get better at that.”

Wright was able to break the press by having one of the forwards—typically Paschall or Jermaine Samuels —flash to the middle of the court while the guards were tightly covered on the left and right.

Freshman Saddiq Bey notched 16 points and four rebounds for Villanova in his regular-season debut. The 6’8” forward made three three-pointers as well, and he played stellar defense, which fueled the Wildcats down the stretch. Wright played Bey for 21 minutes—the most of any freshman—because of his well-rounded style of play.

“We love his versatility,” Wright said. “Very similar to Eric [Paschall]. He can shoot threes, he can put it on the floor, he can post-up and the same thing on the defensive end. He can guard guys on the post, on the perimeter. He’s a good rebounder. We love those kind of guys. We want him to be a complete player offensively. We want him to do everything. He was aggressive which we like.”

Freshman Jahvon Quinerly and Cole Swider each had three points a piece in their performances, and Brandon Slater had zero points in his nine minutes of play. After the game, Wright showed no concern for the teams’ youngsters. 

Quinerly, a five-star recruit coming out of high school, is a lethal scorer with great court vision as well. Swider is a 6’9” forward that can shoot the lights out from outside the arc and Slater is a great inside defender who will be crucial for the Cats throughout the season.

Villanova has plenty of talent on its roster, but with many new faces and a lack of experience, it certainly won’t be an easy season for the team.

“It’s going to be a journey,” Paschall said. “We want to get better every day, and I feel like we have great potential.”