Villanova served Xavier its first loss in Big East conference play tonight in a forceful way, defeating the Musketeers 79-54.
The first half quickly established the high-octane shooting of the game. JP Macura opened scoring for Xavier, and the Musketeers ran with it. Xavier dominated the opening of the game, with Macura and Trevon Bluiett’s leading their effort. Capitalizing on a lapse of ‘Nova defense, Xavier worked the court both in the paint and from the perimeter.
However, their sway ended abruptly near the 10 minute mark of the first half. ‘Nova kicked their offensive game into high-gear with a little (read: a lot) of help from Kris Jenkins.
Jenkins worked every corner of the court, securing rebounds and shooting with pomp. Xavier was able to hold off the Wildcats until the final three minutes of the half, when Eric Paschall’s free throws tied the game at 24-24.
An 18-4 ‘Nova run closed out the first half, and as coach Jay Wright noted in a quick halftime interview, Jenkins’ defensive game helped “bail” out Villanova from continuing to lag behind Xavier.
The second half brought with it a straight-up exhibition by the Wildcats. Brushing off the game’s initial shooting awkwardness, ‘Nova spent the second half flexing their seemingly special magnetic connection to the basket.
Josh Hart continued the offensive flame ignited by Jenkins’ powerful 3-pointers. Hart and Jenkins both threw down a whopping 20 points each for the Wildcats, and ‘Nova’s scoreboard command did not end there. Joining the double-digit squad are: Jalen Brunson (11), Darryl Reynolds (10) and Donte DiVincenzo (10).
Brunson additionally lead ‘Nova with six rebounds and continued to set-up powerful plays with his near-trademarked dexterity.
In the face of ‘Nova’s rising point tide, Macura continued to hustle for Xavier, and even managed to snag steals from Hart multiple times in the second half. Edmond Sumner led Xavier with 11 points, followed by 10 points from Macura and Bluiett.
Despite shooting closely with Villanova in the first half, Xavier fell to making 29.3 percent of its FGs. Villanova, conversely, amped its ante throughout the game. Making 42.3 percent of FGs at halftime, by the end of the game, ‘Nova improved to 53.8 percent. The Musketeers snuck an extra rebound off the Wildcats, obtaining 34 to ‘Nova’s 33.
This marks the 46th straight win in the Pavilion for the Wildcats. Next up for Big East play this Saturday, Xavier travels to Indianapolis to meet Butler, and Villanova heads to Madison Square Garden to face St. John’s.