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5 takeaways from Villanova’s Spain trip

Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire

As expected, Villanova had very little trouble on its eight-day trip to Spain. The Wildcats went 3-0 against Spanish select teams.

With the Wildcats gearing up for a repeat, they used the trip to work out the kinks before games begin to count in November.

Villanova opened its journey by beating a Spanish select team (comprised of Division 2 professional players), 89-49, last Friday. The Wildcats then followed that up by winning 87-80 over a Division 1 professional select team on Sunday. The trip culminated with a decisive victory against a third Spanish select team, 84-58, on Tuesday.

Even without the services of Omari Spellman and Darryl Reynolds, Jay Wright’s club asserted its dominance on this trip.

Here’s what caught our eye about the three games in Spain.

Disclaimer: This breakdown is based only on game recaps, and on footage of Villanova’s Sunday game in Madrid.

1. Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins led the way

As seasoned vets, it comes as little surprise that Hart and Jenkins were the guiding lights on Villanova’s Spain trip.

Hart in particular was sensational: He averaged 22 points and nine rebounds on the trip. As usual, he showed his aggressive nature, relentlessly attacking the basket at will. Hart also showed a feathery touch beyond the arc.

Sunday, he scored 27 points to go with 13 rebounds.

“Josh was dominant, by far the best player on the floor today,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright after Sunday’s game. “If that was a regular season game he probably could have had 40. We were trying some different things late, but when we needed a bucket, we went to him every time and he came through.”

Jenkins picked up where he left off when last saw him, drilling three-pointers at will.

Not many teams will field as potent and experienced a one-two scoring punch as Hart and Jenkins.

2. Eric Paschall showed his worth, and the Big East better be on watch

The Fordham transfer showed that after sitting out last season while practicing with the national champs, he is raring to go.

Without Spellman and Reynolds, Paschall started and made the most of the time he was given. He played well enough that he could conceivably contend for a starting spot come November.

Paschall showed fluid moves under the basket and attacked the rim with reckless abandon. He also showed an ability to drift outside and calmly knock down jumpers. At the end of the trip, Paschall wound up averaging just over 10 points.

“Eric just got better each game,” noted Wright, per Villanova.com. “It was a great trip for Eric. He really started to understand how to fit his game within our team concept and he did it extremely well.”

3. Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth showed they can coexist

Just as Ryan Arcidiacono and Brunson shared a lot of minutes in the same backcourt last season, Wright is not afraid to go with two point guards in the same backcourt.

It just wouldn’t be a Villanova backcourt without multiple ball-handlers.

Brunson and Booth fed off each other. They showed they have the chemistry to keep Nova’s freight train of momentum moving. Brunson looked liked he worked on his perimeter shot, too. Don’t be surprised if he plays more off the ball this season.

Brunson and Booth showed they are ready for the increased responsibilities that will be thrust upon them in the wake of Arcidiacono’s departure.

4. Dylan Painter and Tim Delaney make an impact off the bench

The absences of Spellman and Reynolds presented a chance for Painter and Delaney to make an impact.

The freshmen big men showed flashes of brilliance on the trip, and as a result, both should add frontcourt depth heading into next season.

Painter in particular picked up the slack. He showed ample athleticism and versatility, inside and beyond the paint. He started off his trip in fine fashion, scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds in Villanova’s first game.

He has to work on his man-to-man defense — he was fooled on many jump-shot fakes in Sunday’s game.

5. Mikal Bridges flashes breakout potential

Most expect Bridges to blossom and be a key contributor this season. He certainly showed why during the Spain trip.

He averaged a healthy 14 points per game on the trip and provided Wright with a gifted scorer off the bench. Not afraid to mix it up, Bridges added a noticeable fluidity to his game. Like the rest of the team, Bridges also showcased his sweet shooting stroke.

“Mikal has had two very good games over here,” Wright noted after the Wildcats’ second game, per Villanova.com. “He just continues to build on the improvement he made last year.”

Expect Bridges to use this trip as a confidence builder and become one of the Big East’s better—if not best—bench players next season.

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