Villanova hangs on against La Salle as Brunson has career night



Eddie Brancale

Despite a valiant effort from La Salle, Villanova pulled out its 17th consecutive Big Five victory, holding on to beat the Explorers 89-79 and stay unbeaten. PG Jalen Brunson scored a career high 26 on ten of 17 shooting, carrying a Wildcat team that faced its biggest Big Five test in some time. Josh Hart added 21 points, and Kris Jenkins scored 12 despite only 4-13 shooting from the field.

The Wildcats nursed a four point lead into the second half and struggled a bit out of the gate. Hart started the half 1-5 from the field and La Salle cut it to two at one point before Villanova opened up a double digit lead midway through the half. A late La Salle three from Pookie Powell cut the lead to seven, but the Villanova held on after some clutch free throws.

Powell was sensational for La Salle, scoring 27 points off the bench on ten of 17 shooting. The Explorers were within four at the halftime after shooting 65 percent from the field in the first half. La Salle shot better from the field than ‘Nova but committed eleven turnovers to ‘Nova’s six. Villanova’s balanced attack was too much for La Salle, as four of the five Wildcat starters scored in double digits. The three-ball once again served as the focal point of their offense, as they shot 42 percent from deep.

Brunson, however, was the star of this matchup. His 26 points was a career high. Brunson is one of the team’s better creators off the dribble, and he frequently found himself in the paint for easy looks. His ability to use the shot fake keeps defenders off balance and makes them vulnerable to his quickness. Brunson also dished out three assists, and was perfect from the line (4-4).

Villanova continued its dominance over the Big Five, as the senior class (Jenkins, Hart, and Darryl Reynolds) are undefeated in Big Five play. The Cats swept three games from Philly rivals Penn, St. Joe’s, and La Salle, limiting the three to 64.3 points per contest while Villanova averaged 86.3. The Wildcats will head to the Prudential Center on Saturday against perhaps their toughest opponent yet, Notre Dame (also undefeated). With a 9-0 opening to the season, Villanova has every reason to be confident.