UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Villanova picked up its 1,800th victory in program history on Wednesday night, rallying from a nine point second half deficit to post a 76-67 victory over Boston College in the 2020-21 regular season opener for both teams. The Wildcats held a 67-66 lead with 3:36 to play before outscoring the Eagles 9-1 in the homestretch.
After sitting out 13:25 of the first half due to early foul trouble, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl made a huge difference in the second half. The native of Kansas City, Kan., finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Collin Gillespie registered 15 points, including his 1,000th career point in the final minute.
In his Villanova regular season debut, junior transfer Caleb Daniels added 14 points, including a huge 3-pointer in the second half.
“That was a good basketball game,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “It was just so much fun to be out there playing a basketball game. Boston College was really tough. I thought their guards gave us a lot of trouble.
“Not having Jeremiah in the first half hurt us. But you’ve got to give them credit. They came at us hard off the dribble. I though the leadership of Collin in the second half helped us. That’s a really good BC team.”
Jay Heath led the Eagles with 16 points. After being outrebounded 20-10 in the first half, the Wildcats turned the tables after intermission, collecting 24 of 35 boards. Senior Jermaine Samuels added nine caroms to go with seven points.
The Wildcats scored the game’s first five points and methodically built an 18-11 advantage thanks to seven early points from sophomore guard Justin Moore. The lead expanded to 22-13 midway through the period before Boston College began to slow the Wildcats.
The exit of sophomore forward Robinson-Earl with two fouls after just 6:35 of the period played a role too. Without Villanova’s leading rebounder on the floor for the duration of the period, Boston College flexed its muscle on the glass, outrebounding the Wildcats 20-11. The Eagles came back to take the lead at 30-29 with just under four minutes to play in the period.
Some late scoring from Gillespie helped Nova forge a 34-34 tie at intermission. While the ‘Cats were able to hold Boston College in check from beyond the arc – 2-of-10 – the Eagles were 12-of-17 inside the arc thanks to a series of drives to the goal.
Robinson-Earl returned to score the first two points of the second half and give Nova a 36-34 edge. But the Eagles reeled off a 15-5 burst to craft a 49-41 edge. A Moore 3-pointer brought the Wildcats back to within 49-44 at the 15-minute mark.
Villanova dug out of the hole with some key baskets by Cole Swider and Moore to reclaim a 63-61 lead with 5:48 to go in the second half. Robinson-Earl was terrific at both ends, controlling the glass and connecting on 9-of-14 field goal attempts on the night.
Villanova advances to meet Arizona State, which held off Rhode Island in the opening game on Wednesday night. The Wildcats and Sun Devils will square off as the second game of an evening doubleheader at Mohegan Sun Arena on Thanksgiving night.
Tipoff will come at approximately 9:30 p.m. eastern time and air nationally on ESPN. The radio broadcast can be heard on 95.7 Ben FM.