UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — After his team’s first loss of the season, Villanova coach Jay Wright wanted to give his bench more playing time against Hartford.
His reserves responded.
Eric Dixon came off the bench to score 14 points and grab 10 rebounds and the 12th-ranked Wildcats used a balanced attack to rout the Hawks 87-53 on Tuesday. Villanova’s reserves outscored Hartford’s 40-12.
Six Wildcats reached double figures, led by Justin Moore, who scored 15 points. Reserves Brandon Slater and Cole Swider each had 13 points. Caleb Daniels scored 11 points and Collin Gillespie chipped in with 10.
“Some games different guys get it going and this game it just happened to be that the bench was really in their spots and their teammates (were) just looking for them,” Slater said.
The Wildcats shot 52% from the floor and made 15 of their 37 3-point shots (41%).
Traci Carter had 13 points and Austin Williams added 11 points for Hartford (0-2).
Villanova’s first six shots were all from behind the arc. The Wildcats made three of them, jumped out to a 9-2 lead and never trailed.
A 3-pointer from Swider capped a 13-3 run that put Villanova ahead 31-14.
Moore had 13 points to send the Wildcats into halftime up 43-24 and they stretched the advantage from there.
A dunk by Jermaine Samuels gave Villanova a 64-34 lead with 12 minutes left.
The Wildcats finished their stay in “Bubbleville” at 3-1, falling from third to 12th in the AP Top 25 after staying at the Mohegan Sun casino resort five days longer than they had planned and playing two additional games (this one and Saturday’s 83-71 overtime loss to Virginia Tech).
“We played four games in seven days. I thought they handled that well, we’re in good shape,” Wright said. “It’s just the mental aspect. Being in a bubble for this long is impactful.”
Villanova was originally scheduled be at home this week facing Philadelphia rivals Saint Joseph’s and Temple. But both of those teams had to suspend activities because of positive tests for the coronavirus.
Hartford coach John Gallagher said playing one of the top teams in the country on two days’ notice was not ideal, but said everyone is going to have to adjust on the fly because of the pandemic.
“When I got the call to play Villanova on a short notice, I’m not going to let my kids not have that opportunity,” he said.
Villanova: Wright acknowledged playing his starters too much in the loss to Virginia Tech. Against Hartford, nine Wildcats saw playing time and eight played more than 15 minutes.
“One of my weaknesses is relying on our bench because I trust my veterans implicitly, sometimes too much,” Wright said. “I need to get these guys more time and trust them more and they proved it tonight. They definitely earned our trust tonight.”
Hartford: The Hawks fell to 1-30 against current members of the Big East. They lost their opener last Friday at UConn, 69-57.
Villanova was originally scheduled to leave Bubbleville after beating Arizona State in the Empire Classic on Thanksgiving. The team agreed to stay and play Virginia Tech on Saturday and Wright said the program was working on having the Saint Joseph’s game moved from Philadelphia to Uncasville because of the how safe his team felt in the bubble. But he also said the team won’t play another game in Connecticut this week, no matter who asks.
Hartford: The Hawks have a quick turnaround, heading down Interstate 95 for a game at Fairfield on Wednesday.
Villanova: The Wildcats are scheduled to travel to Texas to take on the No. 17 Longhorns on Sunday.
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