After an opening defensive sequence with three foul calls on the Musketeers within the first minute of play, Xavier grabbed a rebound and J.P. Macura splashed a three-pointer to ignite the Cintas crowd. Not so fast though, as in the next possession, Donte DiVincenzo matched Macura with a three-pointer of his own.
Villanova took an 11-8 lead into the first media timeout on a 6-0 run for 1:15 before the break. In that time span, the Wildcats knocked down four three-pointers all from different players. At the 12-minute timeout, Villanova still led 15-10 while the Musketeers struggled to hit shots going 1-7 from the floor in the four-minute period.
The Wildcats continued to stroke it from the outside, and by the under-eight minute timeout, they led 26-17. Of their ten field goals, six of them were made by the way of the three-pointer. Mikal Bridges contributed greatly to that cause, making threes even over a vacuum-tight defense on closeouts.
After picking up his second foul, Bridges headed to the bench, but just as Bridges took a seat, Eric Paschall and DiVincenzo replaced his scoring output. They both hit a three and increased the Wildcats lead to 14 points. Villanova took that same point margin into the locker room after Paschall missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Long range shooting was the name of the game for the Wildcats in the first half. Villanova has many rotation guys that excel at shooting the ball and that showed in the first half. Bridges was the team’s leading scorer with 16 points while going 4-5 from beyond the arc and 6-8 overall. He was a key reason why the Wildcats as a team shot 61 percent from the floor and 58 percent from deep.
Compare those metrics to Xavier’s shooting which was below average for them going 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from past the three-point line. The Wildcats held scoring maestro Trevon Bluiett mostly in check in the first half as he accrued just eight points on 2-7 from the floor.
By the 16-minute mark, the Musketeers were on the comeback trail after a layup finish by Quentin Goodin cutting the Villanova lead to 9. Bluiett galvanized the Xavier offense even further by converting an and one after Jalen Brunson was tagged with the blocking call. His bucket brought the Musketeers within six points. A few possessions later, Bluiett brought Xavier within striking distance after he drilled a deep jumper right before a Villanova timeout.
The scene got chippy with a little over 12 minutes left in the game as a tie-up under the basket nearest to the Xavier bench led to a double technical being given to Paul Scruggs and Omari Spellman as it appeared that Spellman and Scruggs exchanged some words. On top of the technical foul, Scruggs picked up his fourth foul of the game after the officials determined he committed a personal foul as well.
The Wildcats got their lead back up to double-digits but that faded quickly as Macura drove the baseline and got upended while making a hard lay in. He was fouled in the process but missed the free throw following the foul.
At the 7:16 mark, Xavier was once again back in the mix as they were down 75-69 following a layup by Bluiett. Just before the under-four minute media timeout, DiVincenzo and Bluiett matched each other, both making threes. At that point, the Wildcats still held an 86-76 advantage. By the 1:28 mark, Villanova tacked onto their lead after a Spellman three-pointer and led by 16.
A dunk by Paschall sealed the deal for the Wildcats who were extremely efficient and dominate on the offensive end of the floor.
Hey student section. Here’s what the scene looked like before tip off pic.twitter.com/LXA49uRO1d— XU Newswire Sports (@NewswireSports) February 17, 2018
TODAY'S ATTENDANCE: 10,777— Xavier Gameday (@XavierGameday) February 17, 2018
17 home games. 17 sellouts.
Thank you, Xavier Nation! pic.twitter.com/sKLbhNke3p
Bluiett: 26 points, 4 rebounds
Macura: 14 points
Marshall: 11 points, 8 rebounds
Goodin: 10 points, 12 assists (career-high)
Bridges: 25 points
DiVincenzo: 19 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists
Brunson: 11 points, 8 assists