After beating a former Big East member in Syracuse on Tuesday, the Villanova Wildcats were looking to make it five wins in a row as they headed to Waco, Texas. This was going to be another big test for Jay Wright’s team as they faced another Top 10 team in their non-conference schedule. It was a prime-time matchup as two highly ranked teams faced off on a Sunday afternoon. But things didn’t go so smoothly for Villanova at all. They had difficulty scoring the basketball all game as the Baylor Bears defense showed they are still one of the toughest units in the country. With their offense failing to play consistently all game, Villanova couldn’t do much to stop Baylor when their shots started to fall. The contest reached blowout territory late in the second half and finished with a final score of 57-36.
The overall numbers for the Wildcats were about as bad as you would expect. They shot 22.2 percent from the field and three respectively. Villanova only went to the line ten times all game, making six of those attempts. They only had one player in double digits, which was Justin Moore who finished with 15.
It was a disaster start for the Wildcats offensively. To say it was rough would be putting it lightly. Villanova had nine points through the first 17 minutes of the first half. It could have been much worse if not for two late three-pointers by Gillepsie at the end of the half. There were a number of factors as to why Nova only put up 17 points in the first twenty minutes. They struggled to take care of the ball, committing seven turnovers. It was hard for them to establish any rhythm and the offense looked clunky through the half. Credit has to be given to the Baylor defense too. They were all over the Wildcats, swarming them and closing down any space in which a Nova player could operate. To make matters worse when they did get open looks they were missing them, only adding to the frustration. Villanova had multiple missed layups right at the rim in the first half. Luckily for them, the Baylor offense wasn’t at its best and only scored 25 points while also being hampered by turnovers. It was only a 10-point deficit at halftime and the feeling around Villanova was one of relief. With the offense going ice-cold as is, being down by only that margin was all you can ask for.
The second half began on a much brighter note as Eric Dixon and Moore scored layups in the first couple of minutes. It looked like the Wildcats was finally starting to get into a groove as they were moving the ball and, more importantly, knocking down the good looks generated. It was an eight-point lead for Baylor just a couple of minutes into the half but the feeling was that Villanova was on the cusp of making this a real competitive game. But then the offense began to sputter again, going scoreless for stretches of four and six minutes respectively. Unlike the first half, however, Baylor’s offense started to knock down buckets. After the 16 minute mark, they went on a 13-3 run to break the game wide open. It eventually turned into a 20 point lead for the Bears after a three by James Akinjo with 6:16 left. This was essentially the dagger as the deficit remained around that point range until the final buzzer sounded.
Other than Moore, the closest point totals by Villanova players were six points from both Gillespie and Caleb Daniels. The rest of the Wildcat starters combined for nine points. It’s tough to win anytime you get that type of production from your main guys. Villanova went five deep but went with their starters for much of the game. Daniels was the only reserve to score.
As for Baylor, they were led by the 16 of Akinjo, a former Big East player with Georgetown, 10 points from Adam Flagler. However, their bench stepped up with a combined 24 points. It gave them a huge spark when they needed it even though Scott Drew’s team only played three reserve players.
Things won’t get any easier for Villanova as they play Creighton in their next matchup in their first Big East clash of the season.