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Three Takeaways from Villanova taking care of UConn

‘The Cats, without Justin Moore, find a way to get past the Huskies.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Villanova Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova got its 10th Big East win on the year by beating UConn on Saturday. Justin Moore didn’t play due to his ankle injury from the Marquette game, but the ‘Cats managed to score 85 points in his absence.

Collin Gillespie rolled his ankle in the second half and didn’t return. As Nova Nation waits word on serious Gillespie’s ankle injury is, here’s takeaways from the win over UConn.

Eric Dixon

Eric Dixon had the best game of his Villanova career against UConn, scoring 24 points and securing 12 rebounds. He shot 10 for 15 from the field and also had four assists.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Villanova Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

He’s been on a tear since his breakout game on the road against Creighton. He’s averaged 11.7 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game since the trip to Omaha.

As Dixon has displayed recently, he can get it done in a variety of ways on offense. Against UConn, he displayed the ability to face up a defender in the post and use a quick dribble to get to a jump hook. He was effective in the pick and roll, finishing with good touch after catching the roll pass. He banged inside to fight for putbacks and showcased his great drop step.

One of the most impressive moments Dixon had was his dribble drive move to the rim from way behind the 3-point line. He came to help Brandon Slater in the UConn press and was able to take over the possession himself and finish at the rim.

It seems Dixon is improving by the week and if Villanova has any hope of making a run come tournament time, they’ll need him to be a consistent third option behind Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore.

2 > 3

The ‘Cats shot an uncharacteristically low 11 3-pointers against UConn. They attempted 38 shots inside the arc though, knocking down 60.5%. It was the most consistent attempt from Villanova, this season, to get looks closer to the rim and it worked big time.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Villanova Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Dixon made 10 shots under the arc himself, and Caleb Daniels and Brandon Slater combined to go 8 for 13 on 2-pointers. We’ve seen Slater shoot fewer and fewer jumpers and I think the Villanova offense has benefited from it. It’s helped the players on offense settle into their roles. Slater is best suited off ball, cutting to the rim and he had success doing that against UConn.

We’ve seen that this isn’t a great shooting Nova team. If we take away the 3-point numbers of Gillespie, Moore, and Daniels then the ‘Cats are shooting just 29% from distance. That leads to a number of empty possessions. The ‘Cats didn’t have many empty possessions in the win against UConn and their intention to get closer looks was the biggest reason for this.

It was the first game that Caleb Daniels played in this season in which he didn’t attempt a 3-point attempt, and it paid off. Daniels has shot the 3 ball really well this year at 41% but that can’t match 16 points on 71% from 2-point range while also getting to the free throw line six times. The ‘Cats need all the shooting they can get, and Daniels certainly provides that but as shown against UConn, the ‘Cats can benefit from his aggressiveness in getting to the rim as well.

Bum Ankles

You win with your best players and if your best players aren’t on the floor, you usually don’t. Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore are Villanova’s best players and right now they both have a banged-up ankle.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Villanova Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

Gillespie went down in the 2nd half against UConn and exited the game after rolling his ankle pretty severely. Although he returned to the sideline, he did not reenter the game.

Justin Moore rolled his ankle as well but against Marquette and missed the UConn game and was questionable heading into it.

We should find out more Monday on the status of Nova’s top players moving forward. As ‘Nova found out firsthand last season, you need your best players on the court if you want to make a run. Let’s hope Nova has these two back on the court asap.

To end on a positive note, take a look at Mark Armstrong (2022 recruit) and his explosion that caught the eye of SportsCenter NEXT.