Well, the answer is January 14, 1956. The Musketeers won that one by exactly one point. Since then, in the long arc of history that passed from that win to Wednesday night’s loss, it has been one long nightmarish slog in heading on over to Villanova. Then again, in general, Xavier squaring up against Villanova is has not exactly fared well overall. But that’s for a more in depth look another time.
As for Wednesday night’s game, Villanova rolled like rolling thunder over a gentle plain in tonight’s game beating Xavier by a score of 89-65, continuing a trend of losses to Villanova away in Philadelphia since their last win in the aforementioned game in 1956. And also, a growing trend of getting blown out in games in Philly since joining the Big East in 2013.
Tonight was no different as Xavier looked overmatched for the duration of the game, Except, of course, of those nine total seconds where they were tied with Villanova. But that is not even remotely enough to worth further discussion on other than to make a brief point.
They did get composed as the game went on and on, but that felt more to the point of just playing to avoid a descent into further on-court frustration. Luckily for the Musketeers, the second was the more intriguing of the halves this game for them.They did kick it into gear and found their spots. Yes, by that point, Villanova had pulled away and was more about them playing their game instead of the mentioned frustration or even trying to tinkering with things just because there was a window to do that. But the shooting improved from a 33 percent in the first half to a much more offensively sound 62 percent over the span of twenty minutes in the second half. In that half, Naji Marshall scored all 13 of his points compared to a rather fruitless first half for him.
Villanova, on the other hand, played in a composed fashion for the lion’s share of the game. Even when it appeared that lost a bit of edge, they were able to tighten up and just kicked it into an extra gear where they killed the game in the early to mid goings of the second half.
Their shooting hovered around 50 percent from most of the game. Phil Booth and Jalen Brunson were both double figures by the end of the first half and just kept going from there. This was also the sixth-straight game for the Wildcats where they scored 80 or more points. A stretch that began with their December 18 win over Temple. This stretch of games would be longer too, had the Wildcats scored more than 77 over La Salle. But, that is just nitpicking at this point over a recently made fact about Villanova’s season so far.
Anyway, what did it for Villanova this game was establishing perimeter play early on in the first half and getting a lot actually a ton of good looks on jump shots. If that’s not good enough, then consider that Villanova was also beating Xavier downcourt as well. It was just a methodically fun look at how Villanova breaks down talented competition.
Speaking of all of this, the Wildcats got production from a wide array of players tonight. Phil Booth led the way with a 21 point game. Joining his efforts were Jalen Brunson with 17, Mikal Bridges with 15, and Eric Paschall with 14. To round off this impressive scoresheet was Donte DiVincenzo who scored 11 points with an extra spicy combination of leading the team tonight in fouls with four.
As a team the Wildcats shot tonight at a rate of 55 percent from the field, 39 percent from 3-point range, and 72 percent from the foul line. They were actually out-rebounded tonight by Xavier 34-31, but this point probably means not much in the grand scheme of things. Other than to make a point that Villanova was out-rebounded in a blowout win. Then again, actually, no, let’s make this next point in a little bit.
On the Xavier side of things, they were led tonight by Kerem Kanter, who posted an impressive 16-point game. Joining his efforts was the aforementioned Naji Marshall who with 13, and Trevon Bluiett, who had 11 Bluiett though, despite only posting 11 points, was still in a way a model of consistency on the floor for the Musketeers.
As a team the Musketeers shot the ball at a rate of 41 percent from the field, 18 percent from 3-point range, and 70 percent from the foul line. As mentioned, they out-rebounded the Wildcats. Now I can bring up my point that I wanted to bring up earlier. The Musketeers had themselves a productive night on the bench, outscoring the Wildcats 41-17 in bench points. Now Villanova did blow them out and won the game, but still that is a impressive mark of productivity for their rotations.
With this loss, Xavier moves to 3-2 in conference play, as prior to this game they lost a close one to Providence. Villanova on the other hand moves to 3-1 in conference play. Both teams return to action on Saturday as Villanova takes on St. John’s and Xavier plays Creighton.