By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Villanova 87, Radford 61 – Box Score
Considering the lofty expectations placed upon it, it’s pretty remarkable that the opening day of March Madness could be said to have lived up to the hype. The very first game of the day went to overtime between Rhode Island and Oklahoma, both Loyola-Chicago and Houston won on last-second shots, and we saw any number of exciting, competitive games along the way. However, when you’re a #1 seed heading into an opening round game favored by over 20 points, the last thing you would want associated with your game is excitement.
Fortunately for Villanova fans, Thursday evening’s game between the Wildcats and Radford was the snoozer most anticipated. The Wildcats absolutely dominated the action on both sides of the floor, making nearly 60% of their field goals and going 14-27 (51.9%) from three, while holding Radford to just 33.9% shooting from the field. In trademark Villanova fashion, it was a perfectly balanced effort. Each of the five starters knocked down at least two triples and scored in double digits, led by Jalen Brunson with 16 points on 7-9 shooting.
Villanova initially put the game out of reach with a a 22-1 run in the first half to take a 23-point advantage. Then, coming out of the locker room, the Wildcats made it clear that the second half wouldn’t be any different. A few minutes into the second frame, Villanova went on an 11-0 surge, highlighted by this ferocious dunk by Omari Spellman on a steal and runout in the open court.
Nova is ROLLING pic.twitter.com/mXa57u73Dm
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 16, 2018
Midway through the second half, even the staunchest Villanova supporters were ready to flip to the Kentucky game. Head coach Jay Wright was able to empty the bench and make it so no Wildcat reached 30 minutes on the game. A dominating victory where everyone stays well-rested and healthy; it’s all you could ask for to start off your tournament run as a top seed.
The next test for the Wildcats may not be as easy. Villanova will take on star guard Collin Sexton and Alabama in the opening game Saturday afternoon. The Crimson Tide are coming off a 3-point victory yesterday against Virginia Tech, a game in which Sexton carried the load with 25 points and 6 assists. We should see quite an exciting show with Mikal Bridges looking to shut down Sexton in a battle of projected NBA lottery picks. Until then, Villanova fans are happy to have left the excitement to others.