The Villanova Wildcats, riding the momentum of a big home win earlier in the week, turned their attention to the scrappy Seton Hall Pirates in a primetime battle in South Philadelphia on Saturday night.
It wasn’t pretty at times, but the ‘Cats showed some tough defense and gutted out the 58-54 victory in their first meeting with the Pirates.
Both teams came out ice cold to start. Seton Hall held an 11-7 lead halfway through the first half, before Eric Dixon and Caleb Daniels would go on their own 17-3 run over the next six and a half minutes of action to give the ‘Cats a double-digit lead at the U-4 media timeout.
Dixon and Daniels would be the only Wildcats on the board, until a Cam Whitmore three pointer swished through at the 2:30 mark. The Wildcats would surrender a buzzer beating jumper for the third time in the last four games, but held a 27-20 lead entering the halftime break.
Caleb Daniels netted a three early in the second half that granted him access to the exclusive 1,000 point club.
Villanova would cruise under the first media timeout of the second half, before Seton Hall went on their first big run of the game to cut the lead to five.
The Pirates would get as close as one before Brandon Slater heated up to give Villanova a cushion down the stretch. A Cam Whitmore and-one would extend the lead back to 10, and although the Pirates made it a bit close for comfort at the end, they were unable to overtake the ‘Cats.
The Wildcats were led by Eric Dixon, who finished with 19 points and five rebounds. Mr. 1,000 Caleb Daniels also had a productive night, finishing with 18 points of his own, before fouling out. Cam Whitmore added 12 points and two rebounds to round out the scoring.
The Pirates had a balanced scoring attacked led by Tyrese Samuel’s 14-point, 10-rebound outing. Khadary Richmond added 10 points, nine assists, and five rebounds. Al-Amir Dawes finished with 13 points of his own.
While it was nice to be in control down the stretch for the second game in a row, what was more impressive was Villanova’s team defense. The addition of Jordan Longino certainly impacted the teams overall defense, but every single player stepped up in the end.
The Wildcats will take just two days off before a Valentine’s day battle with the Butler Bulldogs. Villanova is now 12-13 overall and 6-8 in Big East play.