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Villanova freezes in final seconds in 56-53 loss to Xavier

Down by three, with a time out and 18 seconds left in the game, the Wildcats stalled out and never got a shot off.

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Villanova has had some painful losses in an up-and-down season, but Wednesday night might be a first.

The Wildcats had an opportunity to tie the game down by three. After a time out, with 18 seconds on the clock, Villanova passed the ball around in attempt to find an opening, but the ‘Cats never got a shot off as the final buzzer sounded, giving Xavier a 56-53 win.

After the game, Villanova coach Kyle Neptune reportedly gave a 15-second statement and didn’t hold a press conference.

Neptune did answer some questions for Villanova’s media personnel, though.

He would also later return to the press room, almost an hour after and issue an apology and speak with reporters in a one-on-one setting.

“I thought we came out, played extremely hard,” Neptune said. “Xavier’s a tough team, they came out and just outlasted us.

“I thought we defended at a high level, but unfortunately, I thought they got some key baskets, some key rebounds at times and edged it out.”

The Wildcats deployed another strong performance on defense, holding Xavier to just 21-of-61 shooting overall (34.4%) and 6-of-27 (22.2%) from deep.

It was instrumental in helping Villanova stay in the game, especially after falling into another double-digit deficit in the opening minutes of the game.

The Musketeers opened with a 14-4 run through the first 8:13 of the game. Villanova would eventually answer back and take a 28-26 halftime lead.

It was a back-and-forth game for the remainder of the way. A 7-0 run by the Musketeers, sparked by a pair of Dailyn Swain free throws and back-to-back baskets by Dayvion McKnight gave Xavier a 42-35 lead with 10:33 left.

The Musketeers would hold onto the lead, but there were a few instances in the closing minutes where the ‘Cats managed to tie up the game. Multiple missed layups ended up costing the ‘Cats as well.

“Just a grind, we had our chances,” said Neptune, when asked about the final minute. “We had to get some stops. They made some timely baskets, got downhill for a tough play there, and we couldn’t edge it out.”

Brendan Hausen, who had another nice game against the Musketeers, missed the game-tying free throw, with 45 seconds left. On the next possession, Xavier’s Quincy Olivari was fouled, and promptly sank a pair of free throws to give the Musketeers a 56-53 lead with 18 seconds left.

Hausen led the ‘Cats with 15 points and was a source of offense from long range. He went 3-of-5 from deep, while the rest of the team went a combined 3-of-18.

Eric Dixon finished with 13 points and four boards. Villanova went 19-of-56 (33.9) overall for the game. The ‘Cats shot just 30.0% in the second half.

For Xavier, Olivari finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Desmond Claude added 11 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Villanova drops to 12-11 overall and 5-7 in Big East play. The ‘Cats have now lost six of their last seven games. They return to action on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center for a 12 p.m. matinee.