Friday, March 9, 2018

Green: Bridges doing all the right things on both sides of the ball

Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray- USA TODAY Sports

When the average fan thinks of Villanova basketball, Jalen Brunson comes to mind and with all of the right intentions.

Brunson won the Big East Player of the Year award on March 7 and came into Fridays semifinal with a team-high 19.1 points per game, but another player emerged this season in All-Big East first team Mikal Bridges.

Bridges is on target to graduate this spring has been the ying to Bridges yang with 17.8 PPG on the season and averaged 22.9 points in his last seven games.

Fresh off a 25-point performance against the Marquette Golden Eagles on March 8, Mikal Bridges continued his stellar play over the last month with a game-high 18 points as the Villanova Wildcats defeated the Butler Bulldogs, 87-68 in the Big East Tournament semifinal round.

Bridges set the tone with the games first five points, which highlighted a 19-0 run as Villanova kept Butler from developing any rhythm. As a testament to the Wildcats philosophy under coach Jay Wright, Bridges gave credit to his teammates to help contribute to the run.

“It was my teammates finding me, moving without the ball, just being aggressive,” Bridges said. “My teammates, my first shot, Jalen Brunson found me in the beginning. So my teammates behind me and I'm just being aggressive.”

After a career-high 32 points against Seton Hall on March 8, Kamar Baldwin came back down to reality and was held to 12, mainly due to Bridges length on defense.

Butler coach LaVall Jordan knows first hand what Bridges has brought on both sides of the ball in three meetings this season.

Mikal is so long defensively and we tried to get him off a couple of backdoors, but deflected them and put him in front of the three quarter press, Jordan said. He presents a challenge on both sides with matching him on one end, but disrupting your flow offensively on the other end. He is a lottery pick and a good battle for these guys to go up against him.

With a wingspan at 7 0’’, Bridges versatile skillset has given other teams across college basketball problems— most notably on defense and was on display against Butler on Friday night.

The perimeter defense of Bridges has been a testament to the ability of taking on any challenge Wright puts on the table and accomplishes with ease.

“[Butler] is mentally strong and that's how their coach and that's what the program is and they stayed throughout and they kept battling throughout the whole game,” Bridges said.And we had some slip-ups and we got on each other. Coach got on us and we had to keep playing our way and stop backing up.”

As a likely lottery pick in Junes NBA Draft, Bridges could make an immediate impact for any team.

Until then, the bright lights of the Big East Tournament championship game looms tomorrow against Providence and Bridges will look to make another mark before the NCAA Tournament looms in the horizon.

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