For the eighth straight season, the Villanova Wildcats are 1-0 to open Big East play, as Jay Wright’s bunch picked up a conference season-opening 68-62 victory Monday evening over the Xavier Musketeers in Philadelphia.
As is often the case in home conference games, and particularly in Xavier/Villanova games, the Wildcats stormed out of the gates to a double-digit lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, and spent the rest of the evening protecting the lead. Xavier led 8-4 at the first media timeout, and by the time the ten minute mark rolled around, Villanova was up 21-8.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the evening for Xavier was that they didn’t hit a three-pointer until there were just 42 seconds left in the game. When you go 1-11 from long-range in a game you lose by six points, you can do the math and figure out what went wrong. This has been part of an overall trend for the Musketeers this season, as their three-point percentage is down to 29.4%, which is 296th in the nation and would be the lowest mark by a Xavier team in the KenPom era. Early in the season, the thought was that things would turn around for the Musketeers and eventually their shooting woes would improve, but so far, that hasn’t been the case.
Naji Marshall finished with 19 points for Xavier on 9-20 shooting, while Tyrique Jones recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Collin Gillespie led the way for ‘Nova with 24 points, his third 20+ point game of the season. 16 of Gillespie’s 24 points came in the second half, as he kept the Wildcats afloat while Xavier chipped away at the lead.
The Musketeers drop to 11-3 on the season and return home Sunday to face St. John’s, while Villanova improves to 10-2 and head to Milwaukee Sunday to face Marquette.