In recent years, Villanova has captured a lot of big wins while playing in Texas, and that trend continued today. While there weren’t any national championships up for grabs, the No. 12 Villanova Wildcats defeated No. 17 Texas Longhorns, 68-64, in a pivotal early-season battle between top 25 ranked teams.
It was certainly not an easy win in Austin, as the Longhorns kept it close the entire time, even going up 27-20 early in the first half following an 18-4 run.
At half, the Wildcats only led by two, and the game remained a back-and-forth battle until they managed to pull away in the final minutes of the game for a big win against formerly unbeaten Texas.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore led Villanova’s scoring attack, as both players contributed 19 points apiece. Despite his recent injury, Jermaine Samuels pitched in with 12 big rebounds. Samuels was playing with an injured finger, and even though he was unable to practice all week, he found a way to get some important boards against a lengthy and lanky Longhorns squad.
“I just wanted to do whatever it took for my team to succeed,” Samuels said. “Finger hurt or not, there was going to be no excuses, and I just wanted to play Villanova basketball for my teammates.”
Robinson-Earl continued his success this season with some emphatic dunks and solid rebounding against Texas, and he was happy to help the Wildcats capture their first, real road win.
“Road attitude. That’s one thing we talk about all the time,” Robinson-Earl said. “Just having a great attitude, especially on the road, and trying to stay focused and locked in. Just play for our teammates and coaches, and do that for a full 40 minutes.”
Due to some unforeseen postponements and cancellations, Villanova played more games at the Mohegan Sun Arena, or “Bubbleville,” than anticipated. This resulted in the Wildcats playing at only neutral sites for their early slate of games, and a road trip to Texas was a welcomed challenge for the ‘Cats.
“[The Frank Erwin Center] was a great atmosphere,” said Samuels. “To be on the road again with my teammates, keeping a Villanova road attitude, going to another team’s arena and sticking together with my brothers. It was a great atmosphere, and I was grateful to be out there again with my teammates.”
Coupled with the road environment, Texas’ size and shooting were a tall task for Villanova’s defense. Courtney Ramey and Matt Coleman III each scored 17 points for the Longhorns, but their impressive shooting was not enough to put them ahead.
Shaka Smart’s team refused to back down over the course of the game, yet Villanova’s defense stepped up and forced some key turnovers down the stretch, ultimately sealing the win.
Cole Swider provided 20 minutes off the bench, and while he only shot 3-of-9 overall, he drilled a couple of threes in an eight-point performance, including a crucial trey with just under two minutes to go to answer back from a Ramey three to regain the lead. Robinson-Earl followed right up with a rim-rattling dunk in transition.
The Wildcats buckled down at the end and made the necessary free throws to hold on for the win.
They’ll move forward from Texas with a 4-1 record, opening up Big East play against Georgetown next Friday.