It was a game of contrasting styles, with the Xavier Musketeers making their presence known by bruising their way through the paint. Meanwhile, the Villanova Wildcats used more of a long-range, three-point approach to deal most of their damage.
In a game between last season’s Big East regular season and tournament champions, it would the Wildcats’ offensive barrage from beyond the arc that would win out, as Villanova enjoyed a 85-75 win in its first conference game at the Wells Fargo Center this weekend.
As a team, Villanova drained 15 threes. Phil Booth and Collin Gillespie were on fire from deep and combined for 11 made shots from long range.
The Wildcats were in front for most of the game, but the Musketeers refused to go away quietly.
Whenever it seemed like Villanova would pull away, Xavier came rumbling right back. With 11:39 remaining in the game, the Musketeers’ Quentin Goodin drained a pair of free throws to make it a one-point game. Both teams would trade three-pointers, until ‘Nova would go on an 11-2 run to push its lead back into double figures. A trio of Eric Paschall free throws made it 62-52 with 8:06 left.
From there, the Wildcats were able to hang on for the win and maintain its double-digit lead.
Booth led the ‘Cats with 22 points off of 8-for-16 shooting (5-of-9 from deep). He also had three rebounds, five assists, and a block. Gillespie took all 10 of his shots from downtown and converted on six of them. He was right behind Booth with 18 points. Eric Paschall added 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
Villanova held a 39-31 edge over the Musketeers at halftime. The Wildcats grabbed an early lead, but Xavier was right behind them. Villanova struggled to protect the rim, as the Musketeers set the tone down low.
Ferris State transfer and last year’s Division II National Player of the Year, Zach Hankins, bullied the ‘Cats inside. He was a focal point of the Musketeer offense and led a successful interior attack. 26 of Xavier’s 31 first-half points came from the paint.
Hankins confusingly played just three minutes in the second half. He had 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting, with all of his production coming before the break.
Villanova stood tough and got the timely shots it needed to from long range to maintain its lead. The Wildcats made eight threes before half, including back-to-back threes by Gillespie and Booth which gave the Wildcats their first double-digit lead of the game with about a minute to go in the first.
It looked like it would hold, until a buzzer-beating jumper by Quentin Goodin trimmed the ‘Nova lead down at the half.
For Xavier, Tyrique Jones led the way with a career-high 21 points and 12 rebounds. Naji Marshall had a solid all-around game, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. Goodin chipped in 12 points, three assists, and a pair of steals.
With the win, Villanova improves to 14-4 overall and stays undefeated in conference play with a 5-0 showing.
Up next for the Wildcats is a trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse for a showdown with the Butler Bulldogs on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.