Too often, Villanova looked a step slow against Boston College, all over the court. Slow guarding man-to-man, slow on switches, slow on help defense.
Not like the No. 3 team in the country, not in Wednesday’s late-night season opener.
You want to blame it on missing some practices because the program was shut down for a couple of weeks after COVID-19 positives hit, maybe.
This part will relieve Villanova fans. The mental toughness they’d expect to see, they saw. Down by nine in the second half, Villanova went on a 11-1 run to grab the lead back.
Boston College got the lead back. Villanova then took over in the late minutes. It wasn’t easy getting the lead, but they knew how to hold it. The veterans took control late. Final score: Villanova 76, Boston College 67.
The importance of Jeremiah
After Jeremiah Robinson-Earl went to the bench with his second foul, Boston College both dominated the boards and kept driving to the rim for the rest of the first half. Some of that, you had to put on the perimeter defenders. But there were rebounding issues, too.
Also, Robinson-Earl showed in the second half how he released a lot of pressure on his teammates, making some big moves inside.
Starting a little smaller
Four Villanova starters were obvious. The fifth was the question. Would Villanova start a little bigger with Cole Swider or go a little surprise. Not a big surprise that the decision was made to go with three guards. Interesting that Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels got the start. Daniels quickly showed that the practice buzz during his year off wasn’t off as he hit his shot, a three, and looked ready to help defensively. HIs three-pointer with just under three minutes left and Villanova up by a point may have been the biggest in the game.
Swider, by the way, hit a couple of key shots to help off the bench.
Gillespie cold from outside
A 1-for-5 first-half from three in the first half for Collin Gillespie was a factor since most of his looks were good looks. Those were the best looks Villanova was getting as Boston College went to a zone effectively.
Down 49-41 …
… We got an early look at how Villanova would handle adversity. In the short-term, they handled it. Jermaine Samuels had a shot fake and a nice feed to Justin Moore for a three up top, which Moore hit. Robinson-Earl contested a shot at one end, then drove with a spin move, finishing with a dunk.
Boston College built back up a 57-48 lead. Robinson-Earl got a shot blocked but grabbed the ball for a pull-up. Gillespie hit a jumper off the dribble. Daniels scored. Villanova passed a big stress test.