Villanova Comes Out on Top, 64-63, over No. 16 Xavier


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Justin Moore contributed 23 points to the win.

James Haupt, Staff Writer

After what’s continued to be a disappointing season for the men’s basketball team, Villanova’s loyal fanbase has been losing hope with every loss. But for the first time in a while, the Wildcats offered their fans a glimpse of hope after beating No. 16 Xavier, 64-63. 

The close win brought the ‘Cats back to .500 (14-14, 8-9 Big East). Coming into the game, all signs pointed to a Villanova loss as it currently sits in seventh in the Big East, while Xavier sat in second. But this game displayed some of the best basketball we’ve seen all season from the Wildcats, as they were locked in on both ends of the court.  

“I thought we did a good job of getting stops in the second half,” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said. “Xavier punched us in the mouth over the first five or six minutes of the game, but we kept battling.”

One of the contributing factors to the win was the turnover differential between the two teams. Xavier ended with 14 turnovers compared to Villanova’s six. Xavier scored just two points off Villanova turnovers, while the Wildcats scored 19.

All season, there has been a reoccurring trend for the Wildcats when it comes to their losses. Villanova has a tendency to keep the score close, or make it close after coming back from a deficit, and then fumble the game right at the end. The Wildcats entered the game with a 6-12 record in games decided by 10 points or less. 

The Xavier game seemed to be more of the same. The Wildcats trailed by 13 at one point, playing from behind for 28:40. 

With their reputation this season to crash in crunch time, there was little hope that the Wildcats could protect the small lead they had. There were two crucial travel calls late in the game against Eric Dixon, the latter giving Xavier the ball down one point and with 11 seconds remaining. Despite this, Xavier missed a layup and graduate forward Brandon Slater grabbed the rebound, clinching Villanova’s first ranked win this season.

On the offensive end, senior guard Justin Moore was Villanova’s leader. Moore scored a game-high 25 points, making 10 of 13 field goals. He also chipped in three assists. Moore went 4-for-7 from deep, proving to be the most efficient Wildcat on all parts of the court. 

“What Justin has done is amazing,” Neptune said. “He was great tonight. A lot of people may have told him to just shut it down for the season. But he wanted to be out there with his brothers and obviously he makes a big difference for our team.”

Freshman forward Cam Whitmore was the only other Wildcat to reach double figures, dropping 11 points.

While this marked the most significant Wildcat win of the season, the Wildcats still have much to play for if they want to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament this March. 

Villanova will now head back home to take on No. 19 Creighton at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, Feb. 25. Tip off is set for noon.