Villanova Drops to 2-3 in Big East Play with Loss to No. 18 Xavier


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Cam Whitmore (above) scored a career-high 26 points in Villanova’s loss to No. 18 Xavier.

Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor

A career-high 26 points for freshman forward Cam Whitmore was not enough for Villanova to beat No. 18 Xavier on Saturday afternoon. The Musketeers came out of the Pavilion with an 88-80 win, their first win against the Wildcats since February of 2019. The loss drops the ‘Cats to 8-8 overall and 2-3 in Big East play. The loss is also the ‘Cats second straight at the Finneran Pavilion, a building that has now only seen five total losses since its re-opening in 2018. With the win, the Musketeers (13-3) extend their win streak to nine in a row and remain undefeated in conference play.

Whitmore led the Wildcats in points, shooting 11-18 from the field, including 3-7 from three. Graduate guard Caleb Daniels had 23 points with three rebounds and four assists. The Musketeers’ senior forward Zach Freemantle had a game-high 29 points on 12-17 shooting while also hauling in 11 rebounds. Graduate guard Souley Boum also notched a double-double on the afternoon with 22 points and 10 rebounds, as well as six assists.

“They’re an elite offensive team,” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said postgame. “They can beat you in transition. Not only do they have options, they have a lot of different ways they can beat you. They can beat you in ball screens, they can beat you in isolation. They are a pretty complete team.”

The Musketeers came out of the gate strong, going on an 11-0 run within the opening six minutes of the game to build a 16-7 lead. The ‘Cats were able to chip away at the early lead built by the Musketeers by going on a 13-2 run of their own, with seven of those points coming off the hands of Whitmore. The ‘Cats regained a lead with 7:47 left to play in the first, 20-18. The contest stayed tight through the end of the first period, with the Musketeers taking a 35-31 lead into the half.

In the second half, Freemantle was able to score at will, putting in 21 of his 29. The Musketeers held a lead for the entire half, leading by as much as 11. The ‘Cats struggled from downtown in the second half, shooting 6-21. The only Wildcat to make more than one three in the second half was Daniels, who shot 4-10 from deep in the final frame. 

“I thought we had our chances down the stretch,” Neptune said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t execute at 100 percent playing against an excellent team. A lot of credit goes to Xavier. They played a really good game.”

The ‘Cats will next see action at DePaul in Chicago. The Blue Demons are 1-4 in conference play, and 7-9 overall. They come off an eight-point loss to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The game against the Blue Demons is scheduled for a 9 P.M. tip on January 10.