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No. 5 Villanova working through growing pains

PHILADELPHIA -- Villanova is ranked fifth in the country, but the Wildcats are hardly an experienced group, having lost three seniors in Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds.

Villanova opened its season with a 75-60 win over Columbia on Friday night and will look make it two straight with a home game against Nicholls State (1-0) on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Wildcats' veteran trio of Eric Paschall (15 points and nine rebounds), Big East Preseason Player of the Year Jalen Brunson (14 points) and Donte DiVincenzo (13 points) led the way against the Lions while freshman forward Omari Spellman had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

"It's going to be interesting," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of the mix of upperclassmen and freshmen on the roster.

"We haven't had a team where four young guys are going to be heavily depended on. On the other hand, we have pretty much six starters. Donte will play starter minutes and he has been great about coming off the bench. He's a great team player.

"We have to get these young guys experience. It might look bad early, it might hurt us early, but it gives us potential at the end to be a pretty good team."

Brunson, a junior point guard, has taken on a larger leadership role, which was evident against Columbia.

"I just keep the same approach. It might be a little different role but I keep the same mentality," Brunson said. "I'm playing for my teammates and coaches, working hard individually and try and get my teammates ready for a game like this."

The Wildcats, especially the freshmen, struggled at times against Columbia.

Wright expects growing pains this season.

"They will make these young guys better," said Wright, whose team went 32-4 last season and fell to Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"They do a good job leading them. We had some lineups (Friday) where it was three young guys and two of those experienced guys, but that's what it is going to be like. It's going to be a little ugly early on here, but I do think in the end we have a chance to be a good team."

Nicholls State rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to win 111-106 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Friday night.

Senior guard Lafayette Rutledge led the Colonels with 20 points while Tevon Saddler and Roddy Peters had 19 points each.

"Our schedule is going to be extremely challenging," Nicholls State coach Richie Riley said on the athletic program's website. "We play multiple teams that are expected to be picked at the top of their league, including Villanova, who is ranked in the top-10 nationally. The goal with this schedule was to best prepare us to compete at a high level when Southland Conference play begins."

Updated November 13, 2017

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