By Mark Donovan
It’s a long way from Pauley Pavilion and UCLA on Friday night to Howard at the Fin last night.
The Bruins are a national power, as are the Villanova Cats, and it was no disgrace to lose in LA in overtime.
But Howard is an HBCU power not known for challenging the pick boys.
At halftime, Howard, a small program trying to make a big statement, hit about every shot in sight and had an upset on its mind.
But then Nova’s Blue Blood status took over.
Brandon Slater hit all four 3-pointers and scored 23 points, Collin Gillespie scored 21, Justin Moore had 16 and No. 5 Villanova knocked off Howard 100-81 on.
The Wildcats (2-1) were coming off an 86-77 overtime loss Friday at Pauley Pavilion against No. 2 UCLA and were pushed for 30 minutes by a Bison team aiming for arguably the biggest win in school history.
The Bison, out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, came ready to knock off a program that went undefeated at the Pavilion the last two seasons and has lost at home only 64 times since the building opened in 1986.
With near-flawless 3-point accuracy, Howard (3-1) gave the Wildcats fits for most of the game until it faded down the stretch. The Wildcats quit playing around late and built a 20-point lead with a 13-0 run over a five-minute stretch late in the second half.
Jermaine Samuels hit a 3 and Gillespie hit two straight to break the game open and send the Wildcats on their way to the expected victory. The Wildcats made 14 3s and all 26 free throws.
Kyle Foster led Howard with five 3-pointers and 19 points.
The Bison shot with the type of accuracy that should have put them in better position to beat the Wildcats, who were unsurprisingly a heavy favorite according to . Howard made 11 straight shots in the first half and still couldn’t take the lead. Tai Bibbs hit a 3 for the 11th straight make and that only brought the Bison within 39-35, yet echoed reminders for Villanova of a November 2018 home loss to Furman.
The Bison shot 45% from 3 over the first three games and went 8-for-12 in the first half and an impressive 17 of 23 in the half overall — that’s 74%. Foster hit four 3s and the chest-bumping, head-slapping Bison — picked to finish fifth in the MEAC — had the Wildcats on the ropes.
Villanova, though, came back swinging. The Wildcats’ first four baskets were 3-pointers for a 12-2 lead and they relied on the long ball to push back the Bison.
“I didn’t think we were that bad defensively,” Wright said. “We were there on a lot of the 3s. They just stuck them. They hit some 2s.”
Both teams finished the game shooting 30 of 53 (56.6%) from the field.