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Takeaways from Villanova Basketball’s win over Xavier

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When the Wildcats put this whole thing together, they’re going to be pretty great.

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Happy Tuesday Nova Nation! After a holiday break and a few technical delays, the Arizin is back! I hope you all had a great holiday and are preparing for a fun evening of ringing in the new year. That celebration got off to a great start last night as the Wildcats held onto their lead to secure their first Big East win of the season.

I was in attendance last night, and shout out to the alumni and fans who packed the Pavilion despite all the students being gone on winter break. It may not have gotten as rowdy as possible, but it was still an energetic atmosphere despite missing a certain “youthful exuberance.” For me, there were two broad takeaways from the game: the offense and the defense. I know, deep hitting analysis. So let’s break those two down a bit more, shall we?

The Offense

For a second straight game, Villanova was held to under 70 points. Prior to Kansas, the only team that was able to bottle up the Wildcats like that was Ohio State in their home stadium. But this is now twice in a row on both of Nova’s home courts that they’ve not only put up low scoring efforts, but also shot under 45% from the field.

A big part of that was another “sleep in the streets” night from behind the arc. They didn’t take 41 threes this time, but 7 of 25 for 28% isn’t anything to brag about. For me, not making threes in a game or two doesn’t matter. You have off nights, and as long as they’re open shots (and for the most part they were), they should be shot.

It was some of the individual performances that had me scratching my head last night. Saddiq Bey stood out, looking like he was in a fog for a good part of the game. He just wasn’t attacking with the same energy that he normally has. That could have been Xavier’s defense, but I think it was just an off night for the sophomore who went just 2 of 8 from the field for only 6 points and 6 rebounds in 36 minutes.

So with Bey not playing his usual role, a lot of those possessions were gobbled up by Collin Gillespie. He won the game for Villanova, and for the most part they were good shot selections. I don’t think Gillespie needs the lion-share of Villanova’s attempts (he had 35% of the team’s sots last night), but last night it seemed like no one else but Justin Moore and occasionally Jeremiah Robinson-Earl were looking to attack.

Overall, I’m going to chalk this one up to rust and say that more than a week off for the holidays isn’t ideal. That said, they need to be more alert and aggressive on offense this weekend if they’re going to pull out a road win at Marquette.

The Defense

I guess what makes the lack of intensity on offense so puzzling is that the team played so well on defense. Against Kansas, Villanova seemed to equally benefit from good defense and good luck on some of the Jayhawks’ misses. But last night the Wildcats were really bottling up Xavier’s attack.

The Wildcats have now held two quality opponents to under 65 points in back to back games. The only other teams they’ve held below 65 this season were Army and Ohio, not so quality. Things are starting to click on the defensive end, something I did not think I’d be saying in December with this group.

A big part of that credit has to go to Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. As talented as he is, I was among many of the doubters that thought he could stand up to elite, big bodied centers like Udoka Azubuike or Tyrique Jones. But he’s really been impressive, playing a tough and physical brand of defense without fouling. Sure, those big guys are going to find their way to the hoop. But Robinson-Earl has been exceptional at disrupting and altering shots to a point where those two players both shot under their season average when going up against Villanova’s talented freshman.

The Wildcats also got more pressure on the perimeter last night, one of their biggest weaknesses on defense. It wasn’t always pretty, and there were certainly a number of blown switches and missed assignments by some of the younger guys. But when you consider that Xavier didn’t connect on its first (and only) three until the final minute of the game, that’s pretty impressive.

Overall, the Wildcats are trending in the right direction. They’ll need to continue to improve as they hit the road for a tough two game stretch at Marquette and at Creighton. But then again, that’s life in the Big East.

In other “news”, all of your Villanova vs Xavier coverage, some final All-Decade lists to cap off 2019, and Villanova Women’s basketball takes on Creighton today. Enjoy!

Villanova defeats Xavier

Xavier Villanova final score of 68-62 recap | Banners On The Parkway
The Muskies dug a hole early and never quite got out of it.

Xavier couldn't close the gap at No. 10 Villanova to open the Big East | Cincinnati.com
Xavier proved its capable of playing with No. 10 Villanova on Monday, but the Musketeers also proved they aren't there yet in a 68-62 loss

Gillespie leads No. 10 Nova past Xavier in Big East opener | Sports | delcotimes.com
Villanova guard Collin Gillespie (2) moves into Xavier forward Naji Marshall (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, in Villanova, Pa.

Travis Steele on Xavier's loss at No. 10 Villanova | Cincinnati.com
Travis Steele wasn't pleased with his team's performance Monday night at Villanova in a 68-62 loss to start Big East Conference play

No. 10 Villanova 68, Xavier 62: Stats, highlights and reaction from the Wildcats’ win in their Big East opener | The Inquirer
The Wildcats got 24 points from Collin Gillespie to help lead them to their eighth straight win in a Big East opener.

Toohey: Villanova starts Big East by proving it can win a 'grinder' | Sports | delcotimes.com
RADNOR — Villanova led Xavier by 13 on two occasions yet had to settle for a 68-62 victory over the Musketeers in the Big East opener for both teams Monday

Collin Gillespie leads No. 10 Villanova past Xavier in Big East opener | The Morning Call
Collin Gillespie scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to lead No. 10 Villanova to a 68-62 victory over Xavier on Monday night in the Big East Conference opener for both teams.

Gillespie's 24 Points Help Wildcats Hold Off Xavier 68-62 | Villanova University Athletics
A 15-0 surge midway through the first half gave the Wildcats a lead they never relinquished.

Big East

Big East Men’s Basketball Schedule: Week Nine | Anonymous Eagle
HELLO CONFERENCE PLAY, GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN

Powell returns from concussion to lead Seton Hall past DePaul | NBC Sports
Myles Powell scored 27 points in his return to the lineup, and Seton Hall beat DePaul 74-66 on Monday night in the Big East opener for each school.

Rankings

College basketball rankings: Gonzaga holds No. 1 spot in AP Top 25 poll, Duke jumps up to No. 2 | CBSSports.com
A look at the new AP top 25 college basketball rankings updated Monday

College basketball rankings: Duke jumps to No. 2, Kansas to No. 3 behind No. 1 Gonzaga in Coaches Poll | CBSSports.com
Undefeated Auburn is No. 7 and undefeated San Diego State is No. 12.

All-Decade Lists

NCAA Basketball: Brunson, Williamson highlights All-Decade team | Busting Brackets
Which NCAA Basketball players were the most dominant players of the past decade? Here are the five that made our All-Decade team.

GOODMAN'S ALL-DECADE HONORS | Stadium
With 2019 coming to a close, it’s time to look at what and who made up college hoops this past decade. We choose the Player, Coach and Team of the Decade,

College basketball: Ranking 10 best games of 2010s decade | Sports Illustrated
Looking back at 10 years' worth of buzzer beaters, thrillers and memorable performances in college basketball.

Here Are The Best GIFs The Sporting World Produced In THe Past Decade | BroBible
The 2010s produced a number of amazing sports GIFs and we rounded up the best of the decade.

Toronto Raptors: Why Kyle Lowry is the player of the decade | Tip of the Tower
With the decade coming to an end we take a look at the top players from each team starting with the Toronto Raptors and Kyle Lowry.

Villanova Women’s Basketball

VILLANOVA OPENS UP BIG EAST PLAY WITH 51-49 WIN | Villanova University Athletics
VILLANOVA, PA. – In women’s basketball action on Sunday afternoon, the Villanova Wildcats tallied a 51-49 win over the Providence Friars in the Big East opener for

Women's Basketball to Host Creighton Tuesday Afternoon | Villanova University Athletics
Villanova will close out the 2019 portion of its schedule with a home game versus the Creighton Bluejays on Tuesday, Dec. 31. The Wildcats enter play with a 6-5