Wildcats Begin NCAA Tournament with Commanding Victory



Mikel Bridges gets past the defender. 

Greg Welsh

In their opening game of the NCAA Tournament, the Villanova Wildcats cruised to an 87-61 victory over the Radford Highlanders on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

Jalen Brunson’s 16 points led the six Wildcats who scored in double digits in what was a balanced offensive display. As a team, ‘Nova shot 59.6% from the field and 51.9% from three-point range.

Fresh off their victory against LIU Brooklyn on Tuesday, their first ever in the NCAA Tournament, Radford opened the scoring on a three-pointer by senior Christian Bradford.  However, the Highlander’s lead would not last, as four straight Villanova threes put the ‘Cats in front, 12-7.

Over the next eight minutes, Villanova would embark on a 19-1 run to break the game open.

The Wildcats shot 68% in the first half, including 57% from deep. The team hit a total of eight three pointers in the first half alone, with five different players knocking down at least one triple.

 ‘Nova also played tight defense, holding the Highlanders to just 27% from the field and 18% from three in the first half.

At the end of 20 minutes, Villanova held a commanding 44-23 lead.

The lethal Villanova offense continued in the second half as the ‘Cats knocked down their first 6 shots coming out of the locker room. This onslaught of offense put the game out of reach early in the second half. With the game under control, Villanova was able to get some time on the floor for their entire bench in the second half, including the team’s four walk-ons. The ‘Cats finished with 14 made threes, a record for the program in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the large deficit, Radford continued to fight playing the Wildcats relatively evenly in the second half. The Highlanders were outscored by just five following the intermission. Sophomore Donald Hicks was the team’s leading scorer on the night, finishing with 13 points.

Having secured a spot in the Round of 32, Villanova will next play on Saturday. The Wildcats will face the winner of an opening round matchup between Virginia Tech and Alabama.