Abbie Parr / Getty Images
It's only December, but No. 4 Villanova Wildcats looked ready for March on Tuesday with an 88-72 victory statement over No. 12 Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Mikal Bridges resembled a future NBA star while playing at the home of the New York Knicks. He finished with 28 points, six rebounds and two blocks behind 8 of 14 shots from the field and 5 of 9 from the three-point range.
As a result, the Wildcats moved to 9-0, while Gonzaga dropped to 7-2 after the Bulldogs also suffered a double overtime loss to the Florida Gators in November.
Tuesday's victory had additional implications beyond victory for the Wildcats. It was their first game against an opponent rated this season, and they were clearly the dominant side at both ends of the court and proved to be worthy of the national scene.
Dana O & # 39; Neil from The Athletic and Andy Katz from NCAA.com did not stop when assessing Villanova's stature after the presentation:
Dana O & # 39; Neil @ DanaONeilWriter
Tuit of the prisoner of the moment: but if you do not think Villanova is good enough to win another title, you're crazy.
NCAA March Madness @ marchmadness
Villanova looks like a refined machine. Mature. Disciplined. This team has the chops to be in San Antonio. – Andy Katz
The winners also received 20 points from Phil Booth and 12 points from Jalen Brunson, but it was Bridges who stood out for his tenacity around the hoop, dexterity blocking shots and ability to stretch the defense from behind the three-point line.
Dan Wolken of USA Today pointed to his NBA future:
Dan Wolken @ DanWolken
Mikal Bridges of Villanova is presenting a show in front of a group of NBA executives tonight at the Garden. Extremely impressive
While Bridges stole the show, the confrontation between the 11th best pace-adjusted offense by Ken Pomeroy at Gonzaga and his fifth best pace-adjusted defense at Villanova stood out participate in the contest.
The Wildcats defenders took control early on the way to a 43-30 lead at halftime with a clear strategy against a Gonzaga team that converted it 24 times against Texas. Villanova used an initial lineup consisting of three guards (Bridges, Booth and Brunson) and five players between 6 "3" and 6 "9" to push the ball handlers of the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga fought to compete with athletics and length while the Big East representative advanced on the perimeter, closed the pass lines, threw forced outside throws and forced 11 turnovers in the first half, allowing only 11 goals countryside.
Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports said that the Bulldogs will have to become more disciplined before March:
Jeff Eisenberg @ JeffEisenberg
There is no mystery of what Gonzaga will have to fix in the coming weeks : lost the ball. He almost intimidated them against Texas, and it's hurting them so much tonight so far.
The defense became offensive to the Wildcats, who used Gonzaga's empty possessions in transition looks and opened three for trailers.
It was not just the quick breaks, because the athleticism and versatility of Villanova that set the tone of the defense were also difficult to stop on the other side, as illustrated by ESPN's Jeff Borzello:
Jeff Borzello @ jeffborzello
Villanova has five players on the floor all the time that they can dribble, pass and shoot is a big advantage. They can use the dribble transfers for all possessions, extend the floor, reverse the offensive, etc. Even when they go big with Paschall and Spellman, they can do it.
Although he finished with 18 turnovers, Gonzaga stayed a short distance during parts of the second half and received great efforts from Zach Norvell Jr. (22 points and four rebounds ) and Josh Perkins (16 points, five assists and five boards).
Even so, the opening hole was too deep to go out, and Bridges would not have the effort to return.
Not only was he the option to follow throughout the contest, his tomahawk slam with less than nine minutes remaining electrified the crowd, put his team ahead by 15 and preceded an energetic block in the Josh Perkins layup on the subsequent possession.
Gonzaga could not match those energy sequences and did not go back up to single digits for the rest of the contest.
The Bulldogs will not have much time to recover with Sunday's road game against the upcoming Pac-12 Washington. Villanova plans to continue shooting against La Salle on the same day.