VILLANOVA (CBS)—The point of these early-season games against overmatched opponents is not so much to win. That’s a foregone conclusion. It’s to win—and look good doing it. Especially when you’re a team like nationally ranked Villanova, which came into Friday night’s season opener the No. 6 team in the nation, hosting Bucknell.
The Wildcats were choppy at best, losing the ball and sloppy at times, brilliantly attacking the rim at other times. The conclusion was a 68-52 opening game victory for Villanova at the Pavilion.
The Wildcats’ stars did what they were supposed to do. Corey Fisher got off to a sluggish start, but quickly rebounded with a very strong second half in leading all scorers with 24 points. Maalik Wayns chipped in with 13 and Corey Stokes added 11.
And though the final score made it look easy, at times it wasn’t. After Stokes’ basket with 12:33 left in the half gave the Wildcats a 12-10 lead, Villanova never trailed again. But it doesn’t mean the Wildcats weren’t threatened. Each time Villanova looked like it would build a big lead and win huge, Bucknell would land a three, or Villanova would throw the ball away.
“That was a good start for us,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They were a tough team, tough, smart and well-coached. What I was really pleased with was the defensive effort. We only had three turnovers in the second half, and yes, there were times when it was frustrating. But some things don’t work; you have to try other things to win.”
The Wildcats also had their patience tried. Villanova was assessed two technical fouls.
The Wildcats took a 28-16 lead into halftime, holding Bucknell scoreless the last 6:50 of the half. Villanova’s defense was the key, holding the Bisons to 2-for-11 shooting the last 12 minutes of the half.
Offensively, it was a little different for the Wildcats. Though Villanova got its share of second and third-chance opportunities, the ’Cats big men failed to convert. Another area was how sloppy Villanova was with the ball, turning it over nine times in the opening half.
If there was shining light for Villanova offensively in the first half and throughout the game it was the sweet touch of Corey Stokes. He led all scorers with // points, and while Fisher was re-calibrating his shooting touch, it was Stokes leading the way for Villanova.
Bucknell went 8:04 without scoring a point, but the Bisons did get within 45-38 with 10:33 left to play, on a basket from Ryan Hill.
What was very encouraging was how Fisher took control of the game in the second half. He was 1-for-5 with seven points in the first half, but became the most dominant player on the floor in the half, shooting 7-for-11, which included 3-for-5 shooting from three-point range.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito