Jay Wright must have given one heck of a halftime speech in tonight's game.
The No. 6 Villanova Wildcats used a huge second half run to pull away from the Xavier Musketeers for an 81-58 rout. With the victory, Nova improved to 20-2 (8-1) as Xavier fell to 15-7 (5-4) with its third straight loss.
The first half was marked by sloppy offensive play, as the teams combined to shoot 19-50 from the field and 15 turnovers.
The Wildcats, as they did against Temple, got off to a rapid start thanks to a 9-0 run in the first three and a half minutes. Villanova would then hold a pretty consistent lead for the rest of the half, as Xavier cut into it slightly for a halftime score of 28-22 in favor of the Cats.
Then, the second half then belonged to Nova.
Xavier cut the lead to 34-30 with 17:15 left in the half, but then the Wildcats absolutely went off the rest of the way. Villanova outscored the Musketeers 47-28 the rest of the way as they refused to look back on the way to a second straight stress-free victory.
James Bell was a fantastic representation of the team as a whole, because he slowly began to ignite into flames during Villanova's huge run in the second half. In the first half, Bell was only 1-for-3 from the field and scored three points. In the second half though, he played like a man possessed, shooting an absurd 9-for-11 from the field to add 24 points from his total for the game. Bell finished with 27 points for the game, the fifth straight game where he lead the team in scoring.
What made the Wildcats especially potent on offense was their great ball rotation as a whole, which resulted in 25 assists, the highest total of the season. In fact, every Nova player that recorded a shot attempt in this game also tallied at least two assists.
On the other side of the box score, Semaj Christon lead the charge for Xavier offensively with 17 points. Even though he was able to match his scoring average for the season, Villanova did a great job of containing him in the second half, holding him to seven points on 33.3 percent shooting (3-9 FG).
Two other Musketeers tallied double digits as Matt Stainbrook, who was the only player to record a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Justin Martin who racked up 13 points.
The second half of this game may have been the most impressive period of time that the Wildcats has played all season. The team was clicking on all cylinders as Nova just manhandled a Xavier team that is one of the top-4 in the BIG EAST standings.
The Wildcats will have a couple of days to rest before welcoming a desperate Seton Hall Pirates team to the Pavilion on Friday. The Musketeers, on the other hand, have no chance to reflect, as they now must set their sights on an upstart Providence Friars team on Saturday.