NEW YORK (AP)—There was no doubt there would be plenty of defense when Texas and Villanova met in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night.
Both teams played the style they like, only No. 6 Texas did a bit better in a 67-58 victory over the 15th-ranked Wildcats.
“There was nothing to be had. You were fighting and struggling for everything you got,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “Our team’s got some answers. We can play a lot of different ways. Everybody made a contribution. One thing I know, and we talk about it, is that this team has the makings of being the best defensive team we’ve had at Texas. We don’t have to score a lot. This team is taking on its own identity.”
And despite the emphasis on defense, the offensive identity is coming from leading scorers A.J. Abrams, who had 26 points, and Damion James, who added 16.
Abrams, who had 18 points in the second half, and James combined to score 16 straight points for Texas (7-1) when it pulled away to a double-digit lead late in the second half.
“It was just that time of the game,” Abrams said. “Me and Damion know we need to step up and our teammates know to get the ball in our hands in certain situations.”
Villanova (8-1) had pulled to 41-38 with 10:54 to play on a layup by Dante Cunningham, who led the Wildcats with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Abrams hit a 3-pointer on an inbounds play to make it 44-38 and he capped the 16-9 run by he and James with a 3-pointer with 5:27 left that made it 57-47 and Villanova was never closer than seven points the rest of the way. James also hit a 3 in the run.
The win was the second straight over a ranked team for Texas, which beat then-No. 12 UCLA 68-64 last week. The Longhorns lost then-No.8 Notre Dame 81-80 in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
“We’ve been in some grinds, and tonight was a grind, it really was,” Barnes said. “Our defense has been really good. People have hard time scoring when we lock in and get our defense set.”
The game was the first out of the Philadelphia area for the Wildcats, who had won all their games by at least 13 points.
“We have a lot of work to do. We need to play in these games and we will now against this type of physical defense,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “And we learned we have to rebound better as a team but we can be a good team.”
Both teams came into the game allowing less than 57 points per game and they both kept up their solid defense. Texas shot 41.7 percent for the game (25-of-60), while the Wildcats shot 38 percent (19-for-50), including 4-of-18 from 3-point range, and committed 19 turnovers, six more than the Longhorns.
“I was very impressed with Texas. I like their overall team defense toughness, aggressiveness on the glass. It’s something we take pride in and obviously they’re ahead of us at that right now,” Wright said. “They really pressured our guards well and they did it with depth. We didn’t take care of the basketball and their pressure forced into playing too fast.”
Abrams was coming off a career-high 31 points against UCLA and James had 13 points and 13 rebounds in that game.
No. 23 Davidson beat West Virginia 68-63 in the opening game of the doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.
“Everybody dreams of playing in the prime-time game at Madison Square Garden,” Abrams said. “It was pro-Villanova but we knew that. When you can play at Madison Square Garden you just don’t care who’s in the stands just so someone is there to watch you.”