clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No. 18 Xavier holds off Villanova’s upset bid in the Wildcats’ 88-80 loss

Cam Whitmore’s career high was not enough for the Wildcats as they fall at home to Xavier

Xavier v Villanova

The Xavier Musketeers were able to stave off Villanova’s late push to take home the win 88-80 on Villanova’s campus at the Finneran Pavilion.

The Villanova Wildcats picked up a disappointing loss to the 18th-ranked Xavier Musketeers and dropped to 8-8, while Xavier extended their winning-streak to nine games moving to 13-3 overall.

“[It was a] hard-fought Big East battle. I thought we had our chances down the stretch,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “Unfortunately we did not execute 100% down the stretch, we played against a really good team... a lot of credit goes to them, they played a really good game”

Xavier coach Sean Miller recognized Villanova’s effort through the final buzzer.

“They made it really hard on us,” Miller said of Villanova’s late-game push. “They did a great job pressing, calling timeouts and we’re fortunate to have Souley Boum as our free throw shooter... No doubt we had to earn it.”

From the start, Xavier took advantage of Villanova’s size, playing through the post on almost every possession. The Musketeers’ early paint touches led to an easy finishes around the rim over a smaller defender or a kick out to an open three.

“I thought [Freemantle] got off to a good start, especially in the first couple of minutes, he got us in the post, especially in transition,” Neptune said of Xavier’s quick start and Zach Freemantle’s game. “I thought it set the tone for the rest of the day, they got a little bit of confidence and he ended up making some tough, towards the end as well, some tough and timely shots.”

The Wildcats were fighting all game, they were just not the better team on the court. The Musketeers had control most of the game with Villanova’s largest lead only being four points. Xavier showed off their eighth-ranked offense and third-highest assist rate in the nation. Xavier finished with an impressive 22 assists on 31 made field goals today.

“They’re a really good offensive team,” Neptune said of Xavier. “They can get you in transition and in the half-court, they’ve got a lot of different options. No only do they have a lot of different options, they have a lot of different ways they can beat you. They can beat you in the post, they can beat you in ball-screens, they can beat you in [isolations], they got elite shooting, they’re a pretty complete offensive team.”

Graduate student Brandon Slater picked up two fouls early in the first half and his third early in the second half. The absence of Slater was most-glaring on defense and the boards.

The Wildcats were not out-hustled but they were out-rebounded 39-32. Villanova also did not do a good job of making things tough for Xavier on the offensive end. Xavier shot 31-57 (54.3%) overall and 9-19 (47.4%) from three. Villanova’s team defense has been an issue all season long. The ‘Cats rank 180th in the nation in opponent field goal percentage defense.

Leading the way for the Musketeers was big-man Zach Freemantle with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Souley Boum contributed another 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Adam Kunkle added 15 points and five rebounds. Colby Jones dropped another 11 points, six assists and four rebounds. Jones converted some tough shots over smaller defenders that really deflated Villanova.

“Zach [Freemantle] playing the game like that 12-17 from the field, 2-2 from three, he was 3-7 from the free throw line where he would have had 30, coach Miller said of Freemantle’s game today. “11 rebounds and four assists and zero turnovers, so in my mind, he was clearly the best player in the game.”

For the Wildcats, Cam Whitmore had a career-high 26 points and showed off why he deserves to be a top five pick in this year’s NBA Draft for the numerous scouts in attendance.

“Cam is an elite offensive player, he is a talent,” Neptune said of his star freshman. “We all know that he can have nights like that. For us, we know we got a lot of elite offensive players on our team, we all know that any night, one of them can get it going. Tonight was just [Cam’s] night offensively.”

Caleb Daniels had his third 20-point game in four games finishing with 23 points and drained five threes. To no one’s surprise, Eric Dixon had a solid game offensively with 19 points.

Neptune said after the game that Justin Moore is still working his way back to 100% before suiting up. Neptune also said that Jordan Longino is still day-to-day and they will go back and speak with the doctors today.

Villanova will look to bounce back from this loss as they travel to Chicago to take on the DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday, Jan. 10. The game will be played at 9:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.