Villanova Falls, 81-79, to Iowa State in First Round of PK Invitational


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Caleb Daniels led the Wildcats with 25 points and seven assists.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

The last time Villanova Basketball fell to under .500 was 3,976 days ago. A loss to South Florida on January 5, 2012 dropped the ‘Cats to 7-8 on the year. They remained at or under .500 for the rest of the 2011-12 campaign. 

On Thursday afternoon, the ‘Cats dropped back below the .500 mark once again. An 81-79 overtime loss to Iowa State in the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon dropped the Wildcats to 2-3 this season.

Graduate guard Caleb Daniels led the team in scoring with 25 and led in assists with seven. Daniels also  grabbed seven boards on the afternoon. Redshirt junior Eric Dixon had a double-double, notching 21 points and 10 rebounds. But the Cyclones’ swarming defense proved to be too much for the ‘Cats, as they turned over the ball 18 times, leading to 23 Iowa State points off turnovers. 

“The way they play is pretty unique, with how they pressure you,” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said. “It’s really hard to simulate in practice. I thought it took us a while to get settled in. We were discombobulated and on our heels for a stretch there.”

The first half was tightly contested, with both teams going on double-digit runs. It ended tied at 34, even with the ‘Cats getting just three points off their bench unit. The Wildcats would finish the game with just six points from their reserves, contrasted with the Cyclones’ 37 bench points. 

Iowa State started to run away with the game in the second half, building up a lead that got as large as 16 with 15:11 to play in the game. 

“I thought they made some tough shots to start the second half,” Neptune said. “They moved the ball extremely well and mixed up going inside and then making some tough, timely shots on the perimeter.”

The ‘Cats were able to claw back into the ballgame, largely behind the play of Daniels and Dixon. A Dixon layup cut the Cyclones’ lead to five with 1:20 to play, and after a defensive stop by the ‘Cats, freshman guard Brendan Hausen hit a corner three to cut the lead to two. The ‘Cats came up with another stop and took a timeout with :19 to play. 

Dixon launched a three with 12 seconds to go that was tipped at the point of release, but graduate forward Brandon Slater was able to corral the rebound underneath the basket. Slater was fouled in the process, sending him to the line with :10 to go. He hit both clutch free throws to tie the game, and then made a big stop on Cyclones senior guard Jaren Holmes on the other end of the floor to force five minutes of extra basketball. 

Even after tying the game at 67, the ‘Cats were never able to regain the lead. The Cyclones only missed one shot in the overtime period, and made all six of the free throws they were awarded. Only Daniels (eight) and Dixon (four) scored for the ‘Cats in the overtime period. The Cyclones’ shooting allowed them to seal the game, 81-79, after 45 minutes of basketball. 

“For us, it’s always the next game mentality,” Daniels said. “We know we’ve got to stick together. Regardless of wins or losses, we do the same thing: work to get better. What takes that pressure off is knowing we have each other and that next game, next rep, mentality.”

The ‘Cats will see action again tomorrow against Portland, who fell in the first round of the PK85 Invitational to No. 1 North Carolina, 89-81. The game is scheduled for 3 P.M. eastern on Friday, and will be televised on ESPN2. 

“We lost to a really good team,” Neptune said. “They played really hard, set the tone early. We threw some punches at them but, to their credit, they had a lot of resolve. That’s an extremely well-coached, disciplined team that plays really hard. Hats off to them. We’ve got another game tomorrow.”