Norvell Jr. scores 22 points in setback
NEW YORK CITY Mikal Bridges had his coming out performance as one of top players in the nation, scoring a career-high 28 points to lead No. 4 Villanova to an 88-72 victory over No. 12 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Bridges, a 6-foot-7 junior guard, had shown Villanova (9-0) what he could do this season with three games of 20-plus points that already signaled he may be the best player on the Big East champs.
Bridges hit five 3s in the first meeting between two programs that have ranked among the best for the last 15 years. Villanova won the 2016 national championship and the Zags lost the 2017 title game to North Carolina.
Zach Norvell Jr. led Gonzaga (7-2) with 22 points and Josh Perkins had 16. Jacob Larsen scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds off of the bench.
The Zags inched to seven early in the second half and Bridges connected on a 3. He came up with a tough bucket inside and drew a foul on one possession and followed with a 3 on the next to make it a 10-game game.
Bridges dunk-and-block destroyed whatever mojo Gonzaga had left and the Wildcats cruised in their first real test of the season.
The Wildcats played every bit like a national championship favorite in the first half. Bridges had 12 points, Phil Booth had 11 of his 20 points and the Wildcats hit six 3s to build a 43-30 lead.
The Wildcats made the short 105-mile trip compared to nearly 2,600 miles for the Zags and had the decided fan support at MSG. The Wildcats, a regular at the Garden in the Big East Tournament, could hoist that trophy in front of the faithful again in March in New York.
Gonzaga: The Zags play against Pac 12 Washington on Sunday.
Villanova: The Wildcats look to extend their dominance in Philadelphia’s city series Sunday against La Salle.