VILLANOVA, PA. 1/10/2017 – Showdown at the Pavilion as two top-fifteen teams met in a Big East battle. That was the conventional wisdom. When it was over the #3 Villanova Wildcats extended their Pavilion winning streak to 46 games with a convincing 97 – 54 win over the #15/14 Xavier Musketeers.
The Wildcats did it with exceptional second half shooting making 17 of 25 (68%), while holding the Musketeers to just 8 of 30 (26.7%), and winning the half by a 46 – 25 margin. Villanova started the second half with an 11 – 5 run to move in front by double-digits. They put the game away with a 12 – 4 spurt to take a 64 – 46 lead with a little over 8 minutes left to play. Forward Kris Jenkins scored 10 of his 20 points in the second half and got the team going by making his first two shots of the stanza.
“Unfortunately, it lifts us a lot and we rely on that,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright about Jenkins getting the team going when needed. “A couple tonight came at the end of the shot clock. We were stuck and he just hit them. When he does that and gets six defensive rebounds, we’re pretty good. When he bails us out, we’re not as good.”
When a team shoots the ball as well as Villanova did against Marquette (65%), they would like to bottle that and use it in the next contest. The Wildcats came out cold. They had a 5:19 scoreless spell in the first half and trailed 24 – 16 before Jalen Brunson broke the streak with six and a half minutes to go.
The Cats turned the tables on the Musketeers by turning up the defense and holding them to one for fifteen shooting to halftime and a 34 – 28 advantage. Nova took their first lead at 26 – 24 on two free throws by Brunson with just under three minutes on the clock. Josh Hart scored 5 straight around a bucket by Xavier forward J.P. O’Mara. Brunson finished the half with an old fashion three-point play.
“We did not start the game with energy and they did,” said Wright. “They are a tough team that came in ready to go and we were not. About halfway through the first half we got the defense going.”
Hart also scored 20 points, 11 in the second half making 4 of 7 from the floor. He also contributed 5 assists. Brunson added 11 points and handed out a game-high 6 assists. Forward Darryl Reynolds and guard Donte DiVincenzo scored 10 points each. Jenkins and Hart took down a game-best 6 rebounds each.
Xavier had three players score in double digits with Edmund Sumner scoring 11 and Trevon Bluiett and Sean Macura getting 10 each. For the game the Musketeers made 28 of 52 field goal attempts and 6 of 32 from beyond the arc. In the second half the Musketeers made just 1 of 12 three-pointers.
“We fell in love with the three-point shot a lot too much,” said Xavier Coach Chris Mack. “We couldn’t get into the lane. Instead of executing our way out of trouble, we tried to shoot our way out of trouble.”
Villanova (16 – 1, 4 – 1) prepares for a road game at St. John’s on Saturday before returning home on Monday to play Seton Hall. They know every Big East game is important, and there are no off nights.
“Coach says we can lose to any team in this conference on any night,” Jenkins said. “We look at our next game as our most important because it is our next game.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian