Villanova won the 2K Empire Classic on Thursday by controlling the tempo and beating 18th-ranked Arizona State by a final score of 83-74. With the team now 2-0 on the season, let’s check out the player grades from Thursday night’s game.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: A+
We knew Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was good. However, I don’t think most college basketball fans realized that JRE would be this good. The sophomore big man had arguably the best game of his collegiate career as he dropped a career-high 28 points, along with eight rebounds. JRE has shown improvement in every aspect of his game. As a shooter, his midrange game is much better as he knocked down several baseline jumpers. He’s shown he can be a reliable 3-point shooter as well, as he knocked down a pair of threes.
Defensively, Robinson-Earl had another excellent outing as he helped limit Marcus Bagely to 10 points on 3-11 shooting. In the short term, if JRE can continue to play at this level, Villanova will be in a great position to make a deep tournament run. In the long term, JRE may play his way into being a first-round pick in next year’s draft.
Collin Gillespie: B-
Thursday was a relatively quiet night for Collin Gillespie, who failed to stand out as he scored 11 points on 3-8 from the field. His best moment was a beautiful up-and-under in the paint against two Arizona State defenders. Tonight was Jeremiah Robinson-Earl’s night, and Gillespie’s leadership was on display as he allowed the offense to run through JRE. Defensively, Gillespie struggled to contain Josh Christopher, who dropped 28 points for the Sun Devils.
Jermaine Samuels: C
For the second straight night, Jermaine Samuels was the Wildcats’ most disappointing player, as he failed to make much of an impact. Samuels got himself into foul trouble in both halves, limiting him to only 20 minutes played. He recorded 7 points, with five of them coming from the foul line, to go along with five rebounds. As Villanova advances, Jay Wright is going to need more production out of Samuels.
Justin Moore: A
Justin Moore was easily Villanova’s second-best player. He made a massive impact on both ends of the floor. We’ve seen what he can do as a scorer, and that was on full display as he scored 16 points on 5-12 from the field and 3-5 from three. However, what impressed me the most was Moore’s defense. To go along with his two steals, Moore did a great job at clogging the lane and drew two charges.
Caleb Daniels: B
Caleb Daniels did his job tonight with the ball, creating his own shots and knocking down a pair of threes as he recorded 14 points. Daniels doesn’t have to be their best player, but if he can be a reliable third scorer, it will go a long way for the Wildcats. Defensively, he struggled at times as Alonzo Verge Jr. dropped 22 points, mostly while Daniels was his primary defender.
Cole Swider: D+
A rough night for Cole Swider, who struggled with his shooting touch, misfiring on five threes. Swider struggled to be consistent last season, and following a night where he earned an A- grade, he didn’t provide much on either end of the floor tonight. Hopefully, Swider will be able to rebound on Saturday against Virginia Tech.
Brandon Slater: C
I will be brutally honest and say that I can’t remember one play that Slater made on either end of the floor in 8 minutes of the game against Arizona State. However, he hit one of two free throws late in the game with Villanova in control. Slater will likely lose his spot in the rotation when Bryan Antoine returns from his shoulder injury.
Eric Dixon: B
After struggling in his first collegiate game, Eric Dixon showed that he was right where he belonged for the Wildcats tonight. In 8 minutes off the bench, Dixon had two nice tip-out boards and recorded his first basket of the season. It will be interesting to see how his playing time changes when Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree returns from his shin injury.
Chris Arcidiacono: C
Any time Chris Arcidiacono is on the court, that is excellent news for the Wildcats. Why? Because Arcidiacono only gets in when Villanova is in complete command of the game. He picked up one personal foul in one minute of play tonight.
Villanova returns to play on Saturday night when they take on Virginia Tech.
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