Jay Wright wondered how eighth-ranked Villanova's young team would handle itself against an established team like Michigan early in the season. He got his answer Wednesday night, and it wasn't pretty for a raucous crowd in the Finneran Pavilion to watch.
The rematch of the 2018 national championship game turned out to be no match. The No. 18 Wolverines ran their offense with precision and played shutdown defense, a combination that helped them get out to a 27-point halftime lead en route to a 73-46 victory over the defending champions in what was supposed to be the marquee pairing of the Gavitt Games.
It was Villanova's worst margin of defeat in the 32-year history of the Pavilion, topping a 100-74 loss to Providence on Feb. 11, 2004. The last time the Cats lost by nearly that many was a 96-68 trouncing by Creighton at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 20, 2014.
Villanova (2-1) saw its top four scorers depart from the team that defeated Michigan, 79-62, in April in San Antonio, and it showed. While the Wolverines lost three players, the holdovers got their share of payback in front of the stunned crowd, snapping the Wildcats' 35-game November winning streak that dated to 2012.
"Part of it is my fault," Wright said. "We've got too many pieces. We're running guys in and out. We're not as organized as we want to be, and we're just trying to find a lineup early in the season."
"It doesn't look good throwing young guys in there against an experienced and well-coached team. All the credit goes to Michigan. If [there's] anything I wish we had done differently, maybe it would be to have a set lineup of seven or eight guys. We were too disorganized out there to play against a team like that."
The Wildcats shot 31.8 percent from the floor and committed 21 turnovers, which Michigan (3-0) converted into 25 points. The Wolverines also had 44 points in the paint, driving for layups seemingly at will.
The Wolverines locked down Villanova's two biggest scoring threats, seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth. Paschall was the only Wildcat in double figures with 10 points, but he shot 3-of-14 from the floor. The 6-foot-3 Booth, who was hounded the entire game by 6-6 Charles Matthews, could only get off eight shots and committed four turnovers.
Point guard Collin Gillespie, who knocked down five three-point baskets in the Cats first two games, was smothered whenever he spotted up at the arc and didn't attempt any. He went 1-of-3 and scored 5 points with five turnovers.
"We have really good individual defenders," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "They're really good at picking you apart and finding a weakness. We didn't have many weaknesses individually on defense today, and that was a big difference."
Matthews scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half, plus three blocked shots. Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis added 18 points and a game-high seven rebounds.
The game was close for the first 7½ minutes, with Villanova trailing, 14-8, at that point. But, Michigan scored the next 8 points, including threes by Eli Brooks and Isaiah Livers, and the rout was on.
With a 26-13 lead, the Wolverines ran off 13 points and extended their lead to 26, 39-13, on Matthews' driving bank shot with 3:12 left in the half. The halftime score was 44-17, and the Wildcats didn't have a punch left to make a run in the second half.
"Whatever the final score was, it wasn't that close," Wright said.