’Cats claw Musketeers in conference matchup



Nick Fattori

Last Wednesday, the men’s basketball team battled Xavier in front of a prime time audience and won a hard-fought game by a score, 88-75. 

Five Wildcats finished the game in double digits, led by junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who had another fantastic shooting day, scoring 18 points and dishing out six assists.

“That was a tough game,” Head Coach Jay Wright said. “That was not easy. [Xavier is] a good team, well-coached and not going to go away. So, we have to do a little better finishing, but good overall effort.”

Fellow junior guard Dylan Ennis hit five threes on his way to 17 points, while also pulling down six boards. With the win the Wildcats’ record now stands at 16-1 (4-1), while Xavier drops to 11-6 (2-3).

“[Jay Wright]’s got a Final Four quality team here,” Xavier Head Coach Chris Mack said. “They’re loaded at every position, they’re experienced at every position, they’re selfless…I don’t know if many teams, if any, will come into this building and get a win.”

Villanova knew coming into the game that Xavier was a terrific offensive team, ranking in the nation’s top 20 nationally in points (79) and assists per game (17) as well as shooting nearly a scorching 50 percent from the floor. 

While Villanova was unable to fully contain their potent offense, the Musketeers could do no better keeping the Wildcats caged offensively.

Villanova answered the call from assistant coach Ashley Howard, who gave the team some wise advice during warmups, which pumped them up and kept them motivated throughout. 

“This team [Xavier] is desperate. They need this win. Well guess what? So do we.” Howard said.

The Wildcats came out and took the first half by force, never giving the Musketeers a chance and dominating every statistical category in the first stanza. They started the game on an 11-2 run and never looked back. The lead was expanded to as many as 18, which was also the margin at the break, 45-27. 

The Wildcats shot 48 percent from the field in the first half, but were actually better from three, going 9-18, compared to 7-15 from inside the arc. They also shared the ball tremendously, having an assist of 14 of the 16 made baskets in the first 20 minutes.

 Xavier was able to cut the deficit to 14 early in the second half, but the ’Cats quickly recovered by scoring the next nine points, extending their lead to a game-high 23 points. 

The Musketeers tried to get back into the game and narrowed the gap to 10 points on several occasions, but Villanova had an answer each time. 

Through selfless play and making the extra pass, Nova was able to get fantastic looks inside and out. For the game, they finished with an outstanding 24 assists on 28 made buckets.

“Ball movement is definitely the key,” Wright said. “We’ve really been making the extra pass and getting wide open shots.”

Things did get testy midway through the second half, when both benches were issued technical foul warnings. 

A few minutes later Xavier forward Jalen Reynolds and Villanova senior forward Jayvaughn Pinkston were issued technicals. Then, after a skirmish for a rebound, junior center Daniel Ochefu was also assessed a technical foul.

“They’re just competitive kids,” Wright said. “They’re [Xavier] a really tough team and I think the refs didn’t want it to get out of hand, so I didn’t have a problem with it.”

The ’Cats finished the night with 15 made threes, which is more than double their average. They also hit 17 of 19 foul shots after struggling from the line in the previous few games.

Although Xavier does most of its scoring damage from the outside, this game worked the inside and constantly were attacking the Wildcat’s big men. 

Senior forward Matt Stainbrook led the Musketeers on the night with 17 points on seven of eight shooting, while pulling down five rebounds. 

Reynolds chipped in with 14, while senior guard Dee Davis had nine points and nine assists. Xavier outscored Villanova by a wide margin of 46 to 18 in the paint, while also getting 15 second chance points.

For the game, Xavier shot nearly 48 percent, which was actually better than the ’Cats, who shot 45 percent. 

The difference though came from the three point line, where the Musketeers could only hit seven to Villanova’s 15.

“Just keep having heart…no pun intended,” said senior guard Josh Hart.

As long as the Wildcats follow Hart’s advice, there is no reason this team cannot keep rolling through conference play and continue one of the best seasons ever on the Main Line.