The Villanova Wildcats were unable to redeem themselves against the Xavier Musketeers and handed Xavier their first victory against the ‘Cats since February 2016. Additionally, this is the first time in 6 years (Jan 12-19 of 2013) that Villanova has lost 3 straight games. With 8 losses this season, this is more losses Villanova has had in the past 2 seasons combined.
Xavier came into the today’s matchup 14-13, with a 3-game winning streak, with their last win occurring on Wednesday against the Seton Hall Pirates. Villanova on the other hand was 20-7 and had lost 3 out of their last 4 games. Their last win came against the Providence Friars almost 2 weeks ago on February 13.
The first half of the match-up between the Villanova Wildcats and Xavier Musketeers showed the strong presence of Redshirt Senior’s Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. Booth and Paschall combined put up 19 of the 30 points to give the Wildcats a 30-27 lead at the half. Villanova did not allow Xavier to lead once during the second half and led by as much as 7 (18-11).
What surprised many fans during the first half was the absence of a free throw by the Wildcat’s. Not one free throw was taken by the Wildcat’s, which shows a lack of fouls on the shooter by a the Xavier Musketeers. Free throws often enable the pace of the game to slow down for a bit, and allow players to drop one in without much defensive pressure. Whether it was timid playing by Xavier, or an inability to draw a foul by a Nova player, fans were left wondering, when will the first one occur?
Xavier began to look promising after the first 20 minutes, making 48% of their shots after the first half.
Xavier came out fierce during the second-half and showed their ability to shoot all around the arc. Early three point jumpers came from Paul Scruggs and Quentin Goodin for Xaiver, while Collin Gillespie, Saddiq Bey, and Eric Paschall all contributed 3’s. Elias Harden tied up the match for the first time since the 7-7 tie in the first half with a 3-pointer with 11:51 to go. From this point on, Villanova was unable to make any progressive movements, leading them to a disappointing second half by the Wildcats.
Xavier got ahead with a layup by sophomore Naji Marshall, who was selected to the BIG-EAST Conference All-Freshman Team last year, to give Xavier its first lead of the game (44-46) with 10:21 to go. After that Xavier went on a tear, going on an 17-0 run, leaving Villanova scoreless for majority of the second half.
Offensively, Villanova was struggling on all ends during this half, unable to make anything from anywhere throughout the second half, due to the consistent strength of Xaiver’s defense. Eventually, Cremo was able to end the 0-11 drought that lasted 9 minutes and 10 seconds for Villanova. The second half left Booth, one of the strongest shooters for the ‘Cats, with a mere layup late in the half.
Those mere 2 points made by Cremo were unable to make up for the treacherous second-half playing by the Wildcats. Eventually Paschall eventually made it to the free-throw line for the first time of the entire game with 2:12 to go.
Villanova just did not look like the same team they once were in January. Their next game is this Wednesday, February 27 where they will face the #11 ranked and BIG EAST Conference leader, the Marquette Golden Eagles.
Villanova better shape up, and they better do it quick.