Omari Spellman shakes off rust to lead Villanova past Pennsylvania

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Villanova Wildcats earn their seventh straight win cruising past the Pennsylvania Quakers 90-62.

During the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Villanova beat out Western Kentucky, Tennessee and Northern Iowa with their star guards Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges leading the way. Entering the tournament, freshman Omari Spellman was coming off what was his best game, putting up 15 points and nine rebounds against Lafayette. Since that game, whether it was fatigue or the Battle 4 Atlantis stage, Spellman had yet to repeat that output.

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In the three-game tournament, Spellman went 3-for-21 from the field and 1-for-6 from three-point range. Spellman also averaged 2.3 points a game and 5.0 rebounds in that span. Where exactly had the freshman that was averaging 11.6 points and 8.7 rebounds gone?

After five days of rest, Spellman came out determined to turn things around against Pennsylvania, to fight for his minutes, and not be defined by his Battle 4 Atlantis numbers. A minute into play, Spellman hit a baseline jumper from 14-feet out. On the next Villanova possession, he followed that up with a three-pointer from the top of the arc.

Three minutes into the game he already had more points against Pennsylvania than he did in any of the three games during the Battle 4 Atlantis. But he wasn’t done there – a minute later Spellman hit another three from the top of the arc. With a quick inbound pass, Pennsylvania was in transition when Eric Paschall came up with the steal midcourt and flew the ball down to Spellman near the rim who finished the fast break with a tenacious dunk.

Six minutes into play and Spellman already had 10 points. After capping a 7-0 Wildcats run, Spellman rested on the bench while Villanova’s guards increased the lead on Pennsylvania.

At the end of the first half Spellman had 10 points, four rebounds and one assist. He was 4-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. In the second half he did cool down going 2-for-6 from the field and 0-for-1 from three-point range, but it’s safe to say Spellman has built back some confidence.

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Most of Spellman’s missed field goals came near the rim while he attempted a jump hook shot – a shot he needs to improve. There was minor contact on those shots, but if Spellman wants to be a force against the bigger teams, he’ll have to finish stronger in the paint. The shots improving his field goal percentage are outside the key, when he has time to set his feet and defenders don’t close in, daring him to shoot.

While Spellman set the pace in the opening minutes, Villanova’s elite guards Brunson and Bridges expanded the lead against Pennsylvania going a combined 11-for-17 from the field. The whole Villanova squad was getting their fair share. Five different players put up double-digit points: Brunson (17), Spellman (14), Bridges (14), Phil Booth (14), Donte DiVincenzo (12).

By the end of the game, Spellman looked back to form putting up 14 points, seven rebounds, one assist and three blocks. It’ll be interesting to see if Spellman can stay consistent in his game-play and if he can maintain this type of output for larger games as well.

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If Spellman can control the paint, with Bridges and Brunson continuing their elite guard play, Villanova should have no problems against Saint Joseph’s on Dec. 2. The much larger contest, and game that will put their current undefeated record at stake is the showdown with Gonzaga on Dec. 5.