‘Nova Downs Xavier, Remains Perfect in Big East Play


Courtesy of USA Today

‘Nova Downs Xavier, Remains Perfect in Big East Play

Tyler Kemp

Last night, The Villanova Men’s Basketball team took a short trip to their home away from home, the Wells Fargo Center, to play against the Xavier Musketeers. The Wildcats entered the game on a five-game winning streak and kept the good times rolling, extending the streak to six with an 85-75 win. 

Grad transfer forward Zach Hankins opened up the scoring on a putback layup for the Musketeers, but Collin Gillespie responded back with back to back threes on consecutive possessions. Gillespie also provided a spark offensively early with his dime dropping, as he hit fellow sophomore Jermaine Samuels with a slick bounce pass off of a pick and roll. This play sparked a quick 10-0 run for the ‘Cats which included a triple from Saddiq Bey, a thunderous dunk from Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and another long ball from Phil Booth to cause Musketeers head coach Travis Steele to call an early timeout after getting down 16-8. Xavier found their big man Hankins for six straight points in the paint to stop the Wildcats’ run in its tracks. Hankins finished with 12 points in the first half to keep the X-Men in the game as the teams headed to the lockers rooms with the score, 39-31, Villanova.

The difference was the shooting from deep for both teams as Villanova shot 44.4% from three in the first half while Xavier shot only 11.1% on the long ball. This helped to set the tone offensively for Villanova. Another interesting statistic is that between both teams, there was only one free throw made as neither team was able to pick up points on freebies from the foul line. Credit to both coaching staffs for keeping their guys disciplined and not picking up bad fouls.

In the second half, Booth opened up for the ‘Cats with a tough layup over Tyrique Jones to extend the lead to 10. After an and-one from Jones on the other end, captain Booth ended the short three-minute scoring drought for his squad with another triple to force coach Steele to call another early timeout for Xavier. Whatever coach Steele said to his group in the huddle worked to perfection, as the Musketeers came out with fire and went on an 8-0 run of their own to force coach Jay Wright to call a timeout for his ‘Cats. Collin Gillespie finally took control of the sputtering Villanova offense hitting another three, one of his six long balls for the night. With the game hanging in the balance at 51-50 with 10:55 remaining, the ‘Cats used another spark to go on an 8-0 run over a two-minute span. These points included back to back threes from Samuels and Booth, and another layup by Samuels, forcing coach Steele into another timeout. Xavier decided to make an adjustment, pressuring full court every time the ‘Cats took the ball out. However, the well-coached backcourt of Gillespie and Booth were able to find teammates for easy transition points, including a dunk from Cosby-Roundtree and an and-one from captain Eric Paschall with four minutes to go to put Villanova up 74-59. From that point, the Cats held down the fort to win 85-75

Jones, Naji Marshall and Hankins were the leading scorers for the X-Men with 21, 15 and 12, respectively. On the other hand, it was the usual suspects for the ‘Cats. Booth finished with 22, Gillespie had 18 and Paschall chipped in in 17 points of his own. “Everything is going to be a grind… but we are ready for that,” said coach Wright postgame about starting the Big East season at 5-0.

Villanova will get the weekend off and be back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 22 against Butler on the road at Hinkle Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.