Villanova Gonzaga Basketball

Villanova guard Mikal Bridges dunks the ball against Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie, left, and center Jacob Larsen (14) during the second half Tuesday in New York.

Julie Jacobson, Associated Press

NEW YORK — To be fair to the scheduling for Villanova, the Wildcats would have had at least one top-25 test already, had things gone according to plan during the Battle 4 Atlantis in November.

By “on-paper predictions,” ‘Nova would have played then-18th-ranked Purdue in the semifinals before meeting then-second-ranked Arizona in the championship, but both lost to unranked teams in the opening round.

Villanova left Paradise Island, Bahamas, with the trophy by beating Western Kentucky, Tennessee and Northern Iowa — three feisty opponents, but ultimately ones that could not match talent with Wildcats.

The No. 4 Wildcats finally got that top-25 encounter on Tuesday night against 12th-ranked Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Either it wasn’t the big test that everyone expected or the Wildcats actually are as scary-good as they have looked so far.

In the first meeting between the opposite coasts’ Roman Catholic universities, Villanova got a career-high 28 points from Mikal Bridges and a career-high-matching 20 points from Phil Booth as they rolled by Gonzaga, 88-72.

Booth missed most of last season with a knee injury.

“Having to sit out last year makes me appreciate playing so much more,” he said. “I feel better and more comfortable each game, every practice.”

The Cats (9-0) simply dominated Gonzaga (7-2). Zach Norvell Jr. led the Bulldogs with 22 points.

“Gonzaga is a really good team, so to get a win like that was nice,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It comes from the leadership of Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Phil Booth. We have things to work on, but this team is where I hoped it would be at this point.”

Villanova led by 43-30 at the half, and, with 11½ minutes remaining, Bridges went to work.

The junior curled in a layup off a sweet drive and buried a trey after a Zags basket. The 6-foot-7 Bridges then blocked a shot by 6-11 Jacob Larsen, which led to a cheetah-fast break and a driving basket from Brunson.

In a little more than a minute, the Wildcats were up, 60-48. ‘Nova had regained control of the game and never lost a double-digit advantage, even after Brunson went to bench with his fourth foul with 9:05 remaining.

This was a well-planned dissection. For most of the season, Gonzaga has struggled with defending dribble penetration. After missing jumpers on their first two possessions, the Wildcats sent Brunson driving hard to the basket.

Brunson missed two layups, but the ease with which he got to the rim told the Wildcats all they needed to know.

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