Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford
NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.
The Wildcats' defense was good enough to still get a win.
No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.
''We played pretty good defense but couldn't rebound with them,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ''It was one of those nights we couldn't make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn't.''
The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.
Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.
''I didn't think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,'' Wright said. ''But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.''
Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.
''I was doing what I always do,'' Brunson said. ''I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.''
Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.
Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.
''They're a very good defensive team, they're active and they made a lot of plays,'' Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. ''The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.''
Villanova: Seven of Villanova's school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John's and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. ... Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. ... Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.
Stanford: Thursday was Stanford's 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. ... Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. ... Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. ... Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn't think the junior would miss any time.
Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.
Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.