Men’s Basketball Perseveres Through Shooting Struggles to Defeat Delaware State, 60-50


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

Eric Dixon led the Wildcats with 17 points and 7 rebounds.

Aphrodite Dimopoulos, Staff Writer

In previous years, a game against Delaware State may not have been a concern for  Villanova. But, with plenty of new faces, both in uniforms and holding clipboards, there is more uncertainty surrounding the Wildcats’ domination. 

These new faces, however, are proving themselves on the court. In Monday night’s back-and-forth game against Delaware State, the Wildcats’ perseverance was their saving grace as they defeated the Hornets, 60-50.

Villanova came off an unexpected loss to Temple last Friday. The game ended Villanova’s eight-game winning streak in Philadelphia Big Five play and marked the first time the Owls have beaten the ‘Cats since 2012. 

Although fans were rattled by the loss, head coach Kyle Neptune is clear on the fact that each game gets played as though it is the last. 

“We’re always looking forward to our next game,” Neptune said postgame. “Our ultimate goal is to just be the best team you can be by the end of the season. It doesn’t matter who we play, we’re saying that this is the biggest game of the year for us. This game right here, right now. And then we’ll go back, we’ll watch some film and then we’ll get ready for our next game.”

This “getting ready” proved to be successful, as Villanova ultimately defeated Delaware State, but the game was a hard fought battle. 

In the first half, the well-known “Villanova Three-Point Shot” just would not fall. Winning the tip off was the high point of the first twenty minutes for the Wildcats. The team went 0-of-16 from behind the three-point line and 6-23 on field goals. While the shots weren’t connecting for the home team, Delaware State knocked in 50% of its field goals and three pointers, although they only put up six attempts behind the line. 

Villanova forwards Brandon Slater and Eric Dixon kept the team in the game with strong free throw shooting and shots in the paint, respectively. Playing 15 minutes in the first half, Slater drew fouls and went a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. 

Dixon, a player that was expected to lead the team this year, is living up to the predictions. In the first half, the 6’8” forward put up eight points and went 4-5 on field goals with three rebounds. Going into his third year at Villanova, the redshirt junior has served multiple purposes on the team. 

 “I think it helps me to talk to guys on this team and come in every day,” Dixon said. “Making shots was cool, but just coming in and like having that pride in Villanova Basketball and coming in saying, ‘let’s get this stance, let’s get this stop.’ Like shots and stuff are cool but that’s big time for us.”

Villanova exited the first half down by three. Finally, just over three minutes into the second half, Slater knocked down the first three-pointer of the game for the Wildcats. One minute later, seconds after entering the game, freshman Brendan Hausen knocked down the second. Keeping up with the trend, Caleb Daniels followed up with a third, and the Wildcats finally found their groove. 

The Finneran Pavilion took a strong liking to Hausen almost immediately after his entrance into the game. The noise and energy from the crowd at points was reflective of his presence. This is especially notable since the Delaware State matchup marks only his second collegiate game. 

“It goes back to playing for these guys,” Hausen said. “The crowd and everything’s great, but I want to do everything for these guys, for these coaches, and the guys that can perform.”

Freshman Mark Armstrong also found success on the offensive end, going 3-4 on field goals and 1-2 from behind the arc.

Connecting on another three-pointer later in the game, Hausen ended the game with seven points and was 3-4 on field goals. Between both Hausen and Armstrong in the second half, the fans got to see what the new blood on this team is capable of. 

“We’re a really talented team and we have a lot of guys who contribute,” Neptune said. “We’re a young team as well, so we got a lot of guys having experiences for the first time, and that means that they’ve got a lot to grow. Like I said in the beginning, we’re a work in progress like every other team right now in college basketball.”

Even though the energy shift on the court felt like a big comeback, the game was still only a two to four point spread throughout the majority of the second half. Villanova engaged a tight two-three zone in the second half that forced multiple turnovers and allowed their lead to extend. 

Overall, while shots did not fall for the Wildcats tonight, they showed perseverance. For the game, the team went 17-46 on field goals. Neptune’s attitude of the matter was one word: “unfazed.”

“For us, we just think about defending and rebounding,” Neptune said. “You can’t control anybody. There’s nobody ever, at least to my knowledge anyways, who has made every shot they ever take, right? So you’re not gonna be able to control that. Our mind says if we defend and rebound, and give everything on that end, or whatever happens offensively, we’ll be okay.”

The Wildcats were just that, “okay”.  

This win brings the team to 2-1 for the regular season as they prepare to travel to Michigan State on Friday. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. and the game can be found on FS1.