Villanova will face a ranked team for the third time in five games when it battles No. 6 Purdue in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic Sunday in Uncasville, Conn.
The No. 5-ranked Wildcats (3-1) were dominant in a 71-53 victory over No. 17 Tennessee on Saturday.
The Boilermakers (4-0) defeated No. 18 North Carolina, 93-84.
Villanova received a balanced effort as Jermaine Samuels had 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Collin Gillespie and Brandon Slater added 14 points apiece. Justin Moore chipped in with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The Wildcats came out aggressive, especially on defense, and forced Tennessee to shoot 5 of 28 from 3-point territory.
“We actually watched something before the game where (former Villanova standout) Mikal Bridges was saying, ‘If I’m playing that hard, the younger guys are seeing me do it and they have to do it as well,” Gillespie said. “So it’s myself and Jermaine just trying to set the tone of playing hard, defending and rebounding.”
The Wildcats lost 86-77 in overtime on the road against No. 2 UCLA in their second game. This is one of the most daunting nonconference schedules head coach Jay Wright has assembled in his tenure on the Main Line.
“I hope it helps us in our league play when we get there,” Wright said. “Number one, our league is really good. Number two, a lot of times we start conference play and we’re not really sure what we are yet. We have an idea, I think, this year, playing these teams, these coaches.”
Purdue’s win over the Tar Heels was impressive, especially considering the fact that the Boilermakers weren’t challenged in their opening three wins over Bellarmine, Indiana State and Wright State.
Sasha Stefanovic scored 23 points, and Jaden Ivey added 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Boilermakers. Trevion Williams contributed 20 points as Purdue has scored at least 90 points in all four victories.
As the season progresses, the Boilermakers don’t expect to keep scoring in the 90s. The first test will come against Villanova, which suffocated Tennessee inside and out.
“I don’t think we can average 90 points,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “A lot of people across the country that have players, their offense is better than their defense right now. We’re one of those teams.”
Purdue made 10 of 23 treys and shot 56 percent from the field against North Carolina. When the Boilermakers needed stops down the stretch, they got them.
Painter realizes that he can’t count on such gaudy offensive numbers every night.
“To be consistent and advance in the tournament or win a championship in our league, you’re going to have to be a good defensive team,” Painter said. “We’re not going to be able to outscore everybody. The ball doesn’t go in like that.”
Purdue led by one with roughly nine minutes left and pulled away against the talented Tar Heels thanks in large part to Ivey’s double-double.
“I think we were resilient,” Ivey said. “There were a couple of times we could have given up and we didn’t. We just kept playing, didn’t give up and just kept playing hard.”
–Field Level Media