Well, that didn’t end like last time. The #8 Villanova Wildcats took their first loss of the season to the #18 Michigan Wolverines in a rematch of the 2018 National Championship. Even though both teams had lost multiple key pieces from last season, this game was advertised as the centerpiece of the Gavitt Games going on between the Big East and Big 10 conferences this week.
The game started out with high tensions when a pre-game scuffle between the two teams broke out right before tip-off. After struggling in their opening two games, Michigan played with an edge that hadn’t been seen so far this season. The Wolverines jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead, bolstered by senior guard Charles Matthews who scored 6 of their first 10 points while finishing with 19 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks. After a quick timeout by coach Jay Wright, the Wildcats came out of the huddle with fire in their eyes. However, 10 minutes into the game, Villanova trailed 22-8 as their offense failed to show up. Matthews along with sophomores Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers, who combined for 16 points, led a 22-7 run to finish a dominate first half for the Wolverines. Phil Booth was the leading scorer in the first half for the ‘Cats with 6 points. However, Villanova trailed 44-17 at the break.
In the second half, Villanova started out playing with an attitude that they lacked in the first half. Senior Eric Paschall brought the sold-out crowd in the Finneran Pavilion to their feet when he threw down a highlight reel slam dunk. However, Paschall’s offense struggled all night as he finished with 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting along with 6 rebounds. Villanova’s offense was altogether brutal as they shot 31.8% from the field, 20% from three-point range and turned the ball over 21 times. Villanova's frustrations boiled over when Villanova sophomore Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Michigan junior Zavier Simpson got tangled up, leading to a skirmish between the two teams. This result in a flagrant 1 foul on Simpson and a common foul on Cosby-Roundtree.
Although the ‘Cats played much better in the second half, they were not really able to cut into Michigan’s lead, which resulted in a short night for most of the veteran players. For the last 8 minutes, Wright sent out the players new to the program such as Joe Cremo, Jahvon Quinerly, Cole Swider, and Saddiq Bey to get more game action and experience which will surely prove to be crucial later in the season.
One noteworthy performance for Michigan was freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis who is expected to fill-in the gap left by Moritz Wagner's departure for the NBA. Brazdeikis dropped 19 points and 7 rebounds in a game where he physically dominated Villanova’s big men. Look for the Wildcats to focus on controlling the paint where Brazdeikis dominated them.