The #22 ranked Villanova Wildcats continued their hot start to conference play with an 85-75 victory over the Xavier Musketeers. After their 5th straight win against the Musketeers, the Wildcats improved to 14-4 overall and remain the lone unbeaten team in the Big East with a 5-0 conference record.
Villanova started the game off hot with 4 three-pointers and 2 pick-and-roll dunks to build a quick 16-8 lead. This run was energized by sophomore guard Collin Gillespie and senior guard Phil Booth as they scored or assisted on 13 of the 16 points. The rest of the first half featured a very balanced offense as all 7 players who stepped on the court recorded at least one basket, and no player scored more than 9 points. The offense was 3-point heavy as the ‘Cats shot 44.4% while hitting 8-18 from deep in the first half, resulting in 61% of their overall points. Going into the break, Villanova led Xavier 39-31.
At the start of the second half, Xavier went on an 8-0 run to cut into Villanova’s lead and eventually found themselves down by 1 point with roughly 10 minutes remaining. After shooting 1 of 9 from deep in the first half, the Musketeers made 5 of 9 threes in the second half to spark their run. However, the Wildcats answered with their own 8-0 run led by Booth and sophomore Jermaine Samuels to build a comfortable lead and never looked back. The dagger came from Booth when his 3-pointer bounced straight up off the rim and swished through the net to put the Wells Fargo Center crowd into a frenzy. The hot shooting continued for the ‘Cats as they shot 44% from deep in the second half as well.
When the game started to get close in the second half, Villanova leaned on their top three scorers of Booth, Gillespie and senior forward Eric Paschall. In the final 20 minutes, they combined for 32 of the Wildcats 46 points to preserve the victory. Booth and Gillespie were particularly deadly from deep as they led the ‘Cats three-point barrage. Booth finished with a team and game high 22 points while shooting 8-16 from the field and 5-9 from deep and added a team high 5 assists. Meanwhile Gillespie scored 18 points while shooting 6-10 from both the field and deep and added 4 assists of his own. Paschall changed the pace of the offense by scoring 17 points and grabbing 8 rebounds with most of his damage coming from in the paint.
Xavier was led by their 3 big men in junior Tyrique Jones, senior Zach Hankins, and sophomore Naji Marshall. Jones scored 21 points and hauled in 12 rebounds to lead the Musketeers in both categories. Hankins scored 12 points in only 14 minutes to spark Xavier at the beginning of both halves. Finally, arguably Xavier’s best player in Marshall scored 15 points with 6 rebounds and 7 assists.