Game 9: Villanova 70, La Salle 59
Will we see an upset tonight?
So much for what I think.
When I got here, I had a hunch that Villanova might struggle tonight because of the long week it's had.
It was close early, but it didn't last. After La Salle took an 18-16 lead with 10:08 left in the first half, the Wildcats launched a 20-1 run over the next six minutes of play. They did so not only with good shooting, but also with a strong effort on the glass, pulling down six defensive rebounds during the stretch.
The result? A lead that never dipped below double digits until the game's final seconds, and a quieted sellout crowd at Tom Gola Arena - except for the section of 'Nova fans near my seat behind the basket.
Given what Villanova went through against Texas and St. Joe's, I thought this was a pretty impressive performance. Key stats included a 20-6 assist-to-turnover ratio, seven steals, six blocks and and 8-for-16 shooting from three-point range.
La Salle had the edge in total rebounds, 40-31, including 11 offensive boards. But that stemmed in part from 37.5 percent field goal shooting on the night, including 4-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Also not good: a 15-9 assist-to-turnover ratio. But Kimmani Barrett and Rodney Green scored 16 points each, and I particularly liked what I saw from Explorers big man Vernon Goodridge. Even though Goodridge only scored five points, he got eight rebounds, two blocks, a steal and an assist.
Villanova held a big advantage in points from the bench, 23-9. Corey Fisher had eight, Reggie Redding seven and Shane Clark six.
Line of the game goes to the game's high scorer -- and, according to Jay Wright, one of its better defenders.