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The Sun’s Arizin: Villanova Basketball Finds An Answer, Questions Remain

Villanova stepped up in a big way for a big win, but there are still so many questions around this program.

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Happy Wednesday Nova Nation! What a tale of two halves! Villanova came back last night for a HUGE comeback victory. The Wildcats went from down 10 late in the first half to winning by 13 when all was said and done. There’s plenty of coverage below and more coming on what happened last night, but today I’m going to focus on some of the outstanding questions that remain for this team.

Winning solves everything so the shooting slump is over, right?

Well, yes and no. The Wildcats were certainly connecting inside the arc to the tune of 61%. It’s only the second time they’ve shot over 60% from two this season, so that’s certainly something to be celebrated. But behind the arc remains a different story. For a fourth consecutive game, and the fourth time this season, Villanova shot under 30% from behind the arc. The long ball continues to elude the Wildcats, especially Samuels and Slater who went a combined 0-6 on the night. Congrats to those of you who took the under in yesterday’s poll.

So the solution is they should take less of their shots from three like tonight?

Again, yes and no. On the season, Villanova is averaging nearly 48% of their shots from three. Last night, only 38% of the Wildcats shots came from deep as they got hot from inside. But just taking less threes isn’t the answer. In the Creighton game where Villanova shot an even worse from three, they actually took fewer of their shots from deep at just 36%. The real key isn’t taking fewer threes, it’s shooting better from two. And from three. Shooting better is a good thing.

Wait, so they were still awful from deep but won? HOW?!?!

Defense, pure and simple. I mentioned yesterday that the last four game shooting slump still saw Villanova go 3-1. In the three wins they held teams to 62 points or less. That’s what Villanova accomplished last night. They held Xavier to 20 points in the second half, won the battle of the boards by two, and had five fewer turnovers. Defense can’t always manufacture wins, but inside scoring plus defense can get the Wildcats through tough shooting stretches.

Does Longino getting minutes mean that Jay is expanding the rotation?

Expanding the rotation? No, Villanova still only played eight players last night. But I think if the second half showed us anything it’s that Jay is starting to at least try something different. The “rarely used freshman” as Longino was described on the broadcast still only got four minutes off the bench (three depending on where you get your stats). But that’s more than he’s seen in six of the last seven games. It also appeared that Longino was called on before Arcidiacono in the second half, which was another change. It will be interesting to see what the minutes distribution looks like against Temple in a game that Villanova should control throughout.

Longino got in but they only played eight guys? Who was missing?

Excellent question. After logging six straight games averaging about six minutes a game, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree stayed on the sidelines last night. Bryan Antoine, who saw seven minutes against Creighton in his first game back on the court, remained sidelined last night. With those two players in particular, your mind immediately goes to injury. Nothing’s been officially reported, but the status of these two will certainly be something to keep an eye on as court time has been hard to come by for anyone outside the top six players.

Winning is good, and the second half was awesome. But there are still a lot of questions for the players, the coaches, and the team as a whole to figure out. Good news is, they seem to be back on the right track.

In other news, Defense downs X, Mikal Bridges is an NBA Success Story, and the Big East is reconsidering the COVID Forfeit rule. Enjoy!

Villanova defeats Xavier

Second Half Surge Carries Wildcats Past No. 18 Xavier 71-58 | Villanova University
Villanova rallied past Xavier Tuesday night at Finneran Pavilion

“Well, the annual Villanova ass kicking.” | Banners On The Parkway
Xavier went to Villanova, pretended that things were different now, and then got slapped down. Still, it’s absurdly early to push the panic button.

VIDEO: Steele on XU's loss at Villanova |
Xavier had a deflating second half on Tuesday at Villanova and it led to a 71-58 loss for the Musketeers

Moore, Daniels lead No. 23 Villanova past No. 18 Xavier | AP News
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Justin Moore scored 12 of his 17 points after halftime and Caleb Daniels added 16 points to lead No. 23 Villanova to a 71-58 victory over No. 18 Xavier on Tuesday night. Collin Gillespie and Eric Dixon each had 15 points for the Wildcats (8-4, 1-1 Big East), who bounced back from consecutive blowout losses.

Inside scoring and defense helped Villanova end its two-game skid | The Inquirer
The 23rd-ranked Wildcats broke out of a shooting slump, making 49.1% of their shots and holding the No. 18 Musketeers to 30% shooting and 0 of 14 on threes in the second half.

Big East

College basketball rankings: Why DePaul is 9-1 overall but 0-2 in the Big East standings |
The Big East standings look a little strange

Philadelphia Inquirer's Joe Juliano Retiring | Crossing Broad
Juliano did a little bit of everything for the Inquirer, focusing most recently on Penn State football and Villanova basketball.

Georgetown Hoyas to forfeit game vs. Providence Friars because of COVID-19 issues within men's college basketball program | ESPN
Georgetown will forfeit Wednesday's game vs. Providence because of COVID-19 issues within the Hoyas' men's basketball program. It will be the third Big East game to result in a forfeit in the past week.

NBA Wildcats

Mikal Bridges: ELEVATED | Phoenix Suns
In year 4, Mikal Bridges has grown from role player to franchise cornerstone with charisma, confidence and sacrifice

Jalen Brunson leads shorthanded Mavericks over Timberwolves | The Smoking Cuban
The Dallas Mavericks had eight players out on Dec. 21, but Jalen Brunson still lead them to a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Villanova University

Greater Philadelphia universities post massive endowment gains in 2021 | Philadelphia Business Journal
Fiscal 2021 was not a year for modest gains. Schools across the country saw their asset values skyrocket with wealthier schools posting the greatest endowment growth.