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Three Takeaways from Villanova’s win over Xavier

Got a little scary at the end, but the Wildcats grind out another Big East win.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Villanova grinds out a win against No. 17 Xavier to complete the regular season sweep. Nothing like a nail biter in regular season Big East play! What a grind, but fifth straight win and sitting at the top of the Big East nevertheless!

Off of a sluggish start, the ‘Cats seemed to settle into the first half, doing whatever it wanted en route to scoring 38 points to grow a solid 38-27 lead at the half. After coasting through the beginning of the second, Musketeers fought their way back into contention.

Scruggs hit a three to tie the game, just after the refs clearly missed what should have been his fifth foul. Justin Moore went down and answered a three-point play to regain the lead.

With the game on the line, the ‘Cats differentiated themselves at the stripe, converting on much needed foul shots. Nunge’s 3 point attempt at the buzzer did not count and the Wildcats closed the book on a 64-60 win.

Let’s dive into some important takeaways from this Big East Match-up:

Eric Dixon continues to surpass all expectations.

Number 43 on the court has truly been a high impact player especially in both matchups against Xavier. Like his twitter name, @BigEballer, Dixon balled out against Xavier on Wednesday night, putting up 15 points and 10 rebounds in his second career double-double.

Whether battling on the boards for tough rebounds or putting on the moves in the interior, Dixon continues to be on overdrive when the Cats need it. Add in a stadium silencing block, Eric Dixon really is showing just how good he is.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this season, most were unsure if Villanova had the size or experience to battle in the paint, but Eric Dixon stepped up to the challenge and contributes in big ways for the ‘Cats. If he continues to be a solid threat on the inside, Dixon will force other teams to help inside on him, only further opening doors for kick outs and better shooting opportunities. His growth throughout the season has been a true testament to the development process of Jay Wright and his team.

A backcourt to truly fear.

Fifth-year Collin Gillespie and junior Justin Moore are one of the best backcourt combinations in the country. The versatility and hustle of these two players drive a dynamic and efficient offense for the Wildcats. Gillespie and Moore had 21 and 19 points respectively in the win.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Consistently driving to the rim and creating off the dribble, Gillespie challenged Xavier’s defense and their ability to collapse and recover with threats sitting on the three-point line. Moore was 2-for-4 from beyond the arc while also grabbing nine rebounds.

While both Samuels and Slater fouled out late in the game, Gillespie and Moore settled the team and shot 100% from the free throw line when it counted, going 5-for-5 and 7-for-7 respectively. From both beyond the arc and driving to the basket, these two truly challenge defenses and are relentless creators.

Grinding out wins on the road. Learning from team mistakes. Most importantly moving forward.

Although it wasn’t pretty, a win is a win. The ‘Cats might’ve had to grind this one out, but at least it shows improvement under pressure late. Making foul shots down the stretch was a difference maker in the win. Maybe it wouldn’t have gotten to that point if Villlanova hadn’t given up 13 turnovers, smarter shot selections also could be something to look at too, or if there was just better officiating overall.

With the season persisting as is, the Cats will need to find a way to stay healthy as there are concerns for injuries such as Samuels’ hip and Slater’s ankle. Could this be a chance to rest those hurt and further develop depth in the young guys like Antione and Longino?

Looking at what Jay Wright calls the most important game — a.k.a. the next game — Villanova will face Butler at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday. Following that game the Cats have another home game against Marquette on Jan. 19, then an away game against longtime rival Georgetown on Jan.