In what was perhaps the biggest regular season game in the "new" Big East's history, the No. 5 Xavier Musketeers (25-3, 13-3) beat the No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (24-4, 13-2) 90-83 Wednesday night at the Cintas Center.
Xavier led by three, 40-37, at the half. Villanova junior forward Kris Jenkins, who had 19 first half points, picked up two quick fouls early on in the second, and went to the bench with 18:09 remaining.
With the Wildcats' hot hand out of the game, the Musketeers extended their lead to eight over the next nine-plus minutes of game time. Jenkins re-entered and promptly picked up his fifth foul after having a rebound ripped out of his hands by Xavier freshman forward Kaiser Gates. The Wildcats never got within seven for the rest of the game, and trailed by as much as 15.
The Musketeers were led by freshman guard Edmond Sumner, who scored 19 points and had nine assists and six rebounds. Sumner shot only 4-of 12 from the field, but made 10-of-11 free throws. Sophomore guard J.P. Macura also scored 19 points off of the bench and junior guard Myles Davis added 16 points. Xavier had six players in double figures.
Jenkins finished with a game high 22 for the Wildcats despite playing less than four minutes in the second half. Senior forward Daniel Ochefu also dealt with foul issues, and scored only eight points in limited play.
Junior guard Josh Hart and senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who led 'Nova in scoring entering the game, went a combined 7-of-24 from the field.
The Wildcats were out-rebounded 42-33, and out-assisted 24-15. The Musketeers assisted on 80 percent of their made baskets, a major reason why they were able to convert on 50 percent of their field goal attempts.
Xavier shot only 69.7 percent from the line, but attempted 20 more free throws than Villanova.
That discrepancy was partially due to XU's heightened levels of aggression and activity in transition. It was also due to consistent breakdowns across the board by Villanova's usually stout defense. Xavier's 90 points were easily the most scored on the Wildcats this season, and 'Nova's defense was constantly out of position, with three players sometimes guarding one and help rotations often coming too late.
The Musketeers took advantage, putting pressure on the VU defenders by attacking the rim and finding open shooters, which only exacerbated the Wildcats' switching struggles.
The Wildcats' largest lead of the game came with 13:52 to go in the first half, after a Josh Hart layup gave Villanova a 19-13 lead.
It is the first loss for Villanova against Xavier since the Big East was re-aligned two seasons ago. The Wildcats had won their previous six match-ups against the Musketeers.
Xavier improved to 4-13 all-time against the top-ranked team in the country.
The Wildcats will look to rebound in against Marquette Saturday afternoon at the BMO Bradley Harris Center.