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December 2019
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#10 Villanova Wildcats visit #16 Ohio State for first ever in Dave Gavitt Games, Big East vs. Big Ten

 

ILLANOVA, Pa. – An eight-day gap between the regular season opener, played Nov. 5, and game No. 2 on the slate – set for Wednesday night at No. 16 Ohio State – might not have been an ideal circumstance. But in the case of the youthful No. 10 Villanova Wildcats (1-0 overall, 0-0 BIG EAST), head coach Jay Wright believes there were benefits to the break.

“In a perfect world, we would liked to have scheduled a game last weekend,” stated Wright after his team completed a practice session Tuesday morning at Finneran Pavilion. “For a young team, though, it’s not a bad thing being able to practice. Every chance we can get to practice is good for us. When you have an older team, that may not be the case.”

The Wildcats conducted a scrimmage with officials last Saturday to simulate game conditions in the Davis Center. Coaches and staff also spent time in the days since evaluating the video of the 97-54 victory over Army on opening night.

“Turnovers and consistency of effort were two of the things we looked at,” Wright noted. “We had some good runs and then we’d lapse. And then a good run and a lapse. In the preseason with this group we have a lot to learn every game.”

Wednesday’s matchup at Value City Arena is part of the fifth annual Gavitt Games, a preseason clash of representatives of the BIG EAST and Big Ten Conferences. The Wildcats are 2-1 all-time in the Gavitt Games, with victories over Nebraska (2015) and Purdue (2016) and last year’s loss to Michigan in the rematch of the 2018 NCAA national championship contest. (Villanova did not participate in the 2018 Gavitt Games).

FS1 will be on the air at 6:30 p.m. with its pregame show live from Columbus with hosts Mike Hill and Steve Lavin. Tipoff is set for just after 7 p.m. with Tim Brando and Jim Jackson at center court. The Villanova broadcast can be heard on 610 ESPN Radio in the Delaware Valley and the TuneIn app everywhere. Ryan Fannon and Whitey Rigsby will handle the radio call.

Ohio State is 2-0 overall and projected to be a Big Ten Conference title contender. Junior Kaleb Wesson is a headliner for a Buckeyes squad with both size and skill coached by former Butler head coach, Chris Holtmann.

“Ohio State has more general experience than us at this point,” stated Wright. “They’re just a good experienced team with freshmen coming off the bench. In crunch time, they count on their veterans. With (Kaleb) Wesson and (Kyle) Young, they’re a big physical team, so tough on the offensive glass.

“This is good for us. We need this. I think our schedule so far has been good. The exhibition game and the scrimmage on the road against quality competition was good for us. Then playing at home for the first time against Army was nice. This is the next step for us. Let’s go on the road against a quality opponent and see where we are.

“Win or lose, we’ll get home and go back to work.”

Freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the Wildcats with 24 points and 13 rebounds in the win over the Black Knights. Sophomore Saddiq Bey contributed 22 points and five rebounds. Robinson-Earl was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Monday. The coaching staff is also looking at steady progress from junior captains Collin Gillespie – who missed much of the preseason with a broken nose – and Jermaine Samuels at the offensive end too.

“I think Jeremiah is starting to step up as a go-to guy,” added Wright. “Saddiq is. Collin really isn’t back into a groove yet. We’d like to get Collin going. We’d like to get Jermaine going a little bit. I think we have a chance to have a lot of balance and that’s what I’d like to see. We’re developing that.”

 

GAME PREVIEW WRITTEN BY Mike Sheridan; COURTESY VILLANOVA ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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