The Villanova Wildcats were back in action on Saturday, facing off against Big East rival, the Seton Hall Pirates. In their second matchup of the season, both Villanova and Seton Hall battled until the last buzzer. The Cats move to 11-1 after a 80-72 victory over the Pirates. Let’s take a look at what made Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats so successful on the court:
Energy from the Start
From the first whistle, the Cats were ready for Pirates of Seton Hall. A little unlike themselves, Villanova had a hot start to the first half. In past contests, Villanova was slow to start and relied heavily on second half action for the win.
These longtime Big East rivals are no newcomers when it comes to playing close games against each other, but yesterday was a little different. The Wildcats jumped to an early start and built the lead from the beginning. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl started the Cats off with five quick points in the paint. Cole Swider also jumped in the action contributing with a three-pointer, capping Nova’s 8-0 run around the 12 minute mark.
Although they built the lead early, Jay Wright wanted to keep the heat up.
“So the history of this rivalry is such that you just you never, ever feel comfortable, you know?” Wright said. “And I definitely felt that way tonight.”
In the first half, the ‘Cats turned defense into offense, outscoring Seton Hall 11-2 in points off turnovers. At one point in the first half, the Cats led Seton Hall 35-19, but in the final minutes before the break, Seton Hall went on a run to cut the lead to 37-27.
Everyone Contributed on Both Ends
On Saturday, the Villanova Wildcats offensively and defensively showed up. The starting lineup included Gillespie, Moore, Daniels, Samuels and Robinson-Earl. These five went straight to work with big defensive plays and fast paced offense.
Although we love to see Collin Gillespie score tons of points, his ability to move the ball and find the open man was the difference for Villanova. Gillespie, the senior captain, had a career high 11 assists in the win over Seton Hall. Creating off the dribble led to Gillespie’s smart and efficient passing, and creating opportunities for his teammates.
With over five contributors, the Cats shared the ball early and often. Samuels ticked off 17 points with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the team with 23. Moore with 16, Daniels with seven points and Swider with six allowed the team to be threats all over the court.
Although they didn’t light up the scoreboard, Swider, Dixon and Slater were key off the bench against the Pirates defense due to their ability to find the open man on offense and contribute on the defensive end. The Cats saw 15 assists on 25 baskets while also causing 11 Seton Hall turnovers. Villanova looked sharp on both sides of the ball for most of the game yesterday.
With solid scoring, unselfish play, and defense all throughout the roster, Villanova looked like a threat in every position.
Keeping Composure and Hitting Foul Shots
The Wildcats may have been leading by 16 during the first half, but this game came down to the last couple of minutes. From free throws, smart fouls, and important clock management, Collin Gillespie and co. took care of the ball late.
Keeping possession and scoring late in the shot clock was key for this Villanova team beating Seton Hall. With three minutes left in the second half, the Hall cut Villanova’s lead to 66-57. It came down to crunch time. Taking care of the ball on the offensive end led to shots late in the shot clock.
Once Seton Hall began putting the Wildcats on the line to earn free throws, the Cats showed up. From the stripe, Villanova was 20-for-23. Putting the “free” in free throws, Villanova made the Seton Hall fouls count.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl came back in for the late second half after missing out due to foul trouble. Once he was back, he made the most of his time and drained some key foul shots late to solidify a Cats win.
Despite what Jon Rothstein likes to call Kevin Willard’s “more adjustments than a chiropractor”, the Cats outplayed the Pirates to earn a now 11-1 record, proving once again that Villanova Wildcats live up to their a Fortune 500 company designation.
Villanova will head to the Big Apple to play St. John’s this Wednesday, February 3rd.