Villanova Escapes Late Game Push From Seton Hall, 58-54


Graydon Paul

Villanova limited Seton Hall to 39.6% shooting.

Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor

Villanova had one of its best defensive performances of the season Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center, holding Seton Hall to just 54 points. It would need every stop it got, as the Wildcats beat the Pirates by four, 58-54.  

The performance is the third time this season that the ‘Cats have held an opponent to 54 or fewer points, with the fewest coming in their game at St. John’s, holding the Red Storm to just 49 points. The win moves the ‘Cats to 12-13 overall and 6-8 in Big East play.  

Redshirt junior Eric Dixon led the charge for the ‘Cats, scoring 19 and hauling in six rebounds. Graduate guard Caleb Daniels pitched in 18 points and five rebounds. Freshman forward Cam Whitmore was the only other Wildcat in double figures, as he scored 12. Sophomore forward Jordan Longino also made his return for the Wildcats after missing nine games with a hamstring injury. 

With his performance, Daniels crossed the 1,000-point threshold in his Villanova career. 

“We all know that [Daniels is] a scorer and he can get hot and make shots,” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said. “He’s made a lot of shots the last couple of games, but I think defensively is where he really gives us a boost. His body out there, his mobility, he also had five rebounds, he was big time.” 

“It’s a blessing,” Daniels said. “[It’s] something I never really expected but just so happened to be a part of my journey. I’m just thankful for it.” 

The first half was a low-scoring scrum. Daniels opened the scoring with a three, and then the ‘Cats missed their next 10 shots. The Pirates led 7-3 with 12:42 to play in the first. The ‘Cats would scrap it back to even at seven with a 4-0 run. 

“Our goal is to defend at a high level,” Neptune said when asked about his team going cold from the floor. “As long as we’re getting good shots… You’re just never going to go 100% from the floor, so you can’t really worry about it. You’re worried about if you’re getting good shots or not, but you’re never going to make them all.” 

The ‘Cats then utilized a 17-3 run in the middle of the first half to build up a lead as large as 10. Seton Hall barely crossed the 20-point mark, hitting it at the buzzer with a jumper from senior guard Al-Amir Dawes. The ‘Cats went into the second half holding a 27-20 lead. Of the ‘Cats 27 points, 24 of them came from either Daniels or Dixon. Dixon finished the half with 13, and Daniels added 11. 

“It was just [Eric and I] being on the attack,” Daniels said. “We saw how Seton Hall came out and played us, and we just wanted to attack and just be aggressive and make plays.” 

The ‘Cats would extend their lead even further with a 7-0 run early in the second, building the lead up to 13. The ‘Cats went cold again, missing nine straight attempts from the field to facilitate a 10-0 run for the Pirates that would cut the lead down to three.  

The lead would get as small as one before the Wildcats went on a 15-2 tear over five minutes and change in the middle of the second half, building the lead to as large as 14. The run was fueled by graduate forward Brandon Slater and Whitmore, who combined for 11 of the run’s 15.  

The Pirates fought their way back into the game, going on an 8-0 run to cut the lead down to six. The Pirates made the ‘Cats sweat a bit, but they managed to escape the late-game surge from the Pirates, 58-54. 

The ‘Cats are back in action Tuesday as they face Butler at the Finneran Pavilion. The Bulldogs are coming off an upset of No. 13 Xavier, 69-67. They’ll visit on Valentine’s Day for an 8 P.M. tip. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.