CHARLESTON, S.C. - The prime attraction in the Charleston Classic was out there first, tipping off before noon, giving ESPN2 a little daytime programming. The early start didn't appear to affect Villanova. The Wildcats practice in the a.m. plenty of times. They weren't asleep.
That's just another part of being defending NCAA champions. Western Michigan won't play a bigger game this season. Once the Broncos survived an early bit of 'Nova defensive pressure inside TD Arena, you could see them start to believe they could stay with Villanova. They weren't the quicker team, but they were the taller one. They could find shots. They could defend these guys they'd seen on TV.
Villanova couldn't put them away.
To finally settle matters and win, 76-65, Villanova had to both execute precisely and heat up a little on offense, just for a few possessions.
Kris Jenkins hit a big three. (It happens.) Darryl Reynolds grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Jalen Brunson for a layup. Eric Paschall, who led Villanova with 17 points, hit a three on a feed from Josh Hart, before Hart hit a three.
Paschall, who hit a couple of threes in the last minute of the first half, led Villanova with 17 points, with Brunson and Hart both adding 14.
On Friday at 1:30 p.m., Villanova will face 3-0 Wake Forest, a 103-81 winner over UTEP. The Demons Deacons romped after scoring 63 first-half points, making 13 of 20 three-pointers.
Playing a ton of freshmen, Western Michigan made 22 of 34 two-pointers.
"We just kind of gutted it out. It wasn't pretty," coach Jay Wright said after his third-ranked Wildcats improved to 3-0.
Asked about 'Nova's defense without Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono, Wright said, "Really, Daniel and Arch were our two leaders defensively. They were the kind of guys, they knew they could score anytime they wanted, but they didn't care about that. They wanted to keep us united defensively. So it wasn't just . . . Daniel's size and athleticism, it was his communication. Same with Arch. So that's kind of where. . . . We're disjointed. We don't communicate yet. . . . Even as much as changing the defenses, Arch was always calling them out, changing everybody. Now it's in Jalen's hands. We have different guys. It's going to take us some time."
"I agree with him," Brunson said, sitting next to his coach. "I think we all agree with him. We're just going to have to lock in defensively. We have the ability to be a great defensive team."
Both of the last two opponents had 7-foot centers. What did Western Michigan (1-2) present that was different from Purdue the other night?
"Purdue had us a little more extended because they hit six threes in the first half," Wright said. "These guys ran more back-screening, cuts that got us. They hit some tough shots. . . . They just made some tough shots."
Wright talked about how his guys have played in some tough games already. "I'm decently pleased offensively," he said. "We're just going to have to be a lot better defensively."
It probably won't be what he remembers about it, but with the victory, Wright tied Rollie Massimino for second in all-time Villanova coaching victories, with 357. Massimino did it in 19 seasons. Wright is in his 16th. Al Severance has the school record with 413 in 25 seasons, from 1936 to '61. Villanova has had only five men's basketball coaches since 1936.