Sporting a new look and a new ranking, the Wildcats were up to their old tricks. The Wildcats faced off against a new Big East foe only to get a familiar result, a win.
Xavier started off the game 0 for 3 with three turnovers. On the other hand, the Wildcats capitalized on the Musketeers’ misfortune and got off to a quick 9-0 run. JayVaughn Pinkston showed off some range, as he sunk three baskets from beyond the arc in the first half.
His perimeter game was perfect, while his inside game was unusually off. The Wildcats as a whole had a few botched dunks throughout the night, but that did not stop them from extending the lead into the double digits. However, Xavier would not go away that easily. The Musketeers began to battle back and close the gap. Semaj Christon had 10 first half points, helping Xavier close the deficit to six points. Villanova took a 28-22 lead into the half.
Once again, the Wildcats would showoff how great they are in the second half. They started off a little slow, allowing Xavier’s Justin Martin to score back-to-back three pointers, cutting the lead to three points. Villanova would call a time out, and from there they took off. Darrun Hilliard came out sinking a three pointer and then a jumper. Hilliard would score 15 of his 17 points in the second half. He would then assist in a James Bell three pointer. This officially marked the start of a second half onslaught by Bell. Bell was mainly quiet in the first half, only scoring six points. In the second half, he went off. He was 8 for 10 in the second half alone, including an impressive 5 for 7 from beyond the arc. He had a vicious dunk that electrified the Pavilion. As the crowd erupted in cheers, the dunk fest was not over, Dylan Ennis came in and added another highflying dunk right after Bell. Ennis’ dunk sent the already excited crowd into a greater frenzy. Xavier called a time out after the back-to-back dunks, but that did not quell the cheers from the Pavilion crowd.
As the Wildcats built up their lead and rhythm, the Musketeers grew increasingly frustrated. Semaj Christon pushed Daniel Ochefu after Xavier’s Martin sunk a jumpshot. The push did not receive a foul from the referees, but the crowd did not miss it. The Pavilion crowd showered Christon with boos, and they never let up. Every time Christon held the ball, he was met with boos that could have been heard from the other side of campus. The student section showed no mercy, especially after Christon made a three pointer and began barking at Ochefu. Once again, Christon’s actions went on without penalty or notice from the referees. It only made the boos much more louder. Christon got one last curtain call after the Musketeers put their reserves in to stay for the rest of the game. Hilliard would provide the final points of the game to make the final score 81-58.
After the game, Jay Wright went right over to the student section to thank them. The student section definitely got into the heads of the Musketeers. Their bench and players were occasionally looking up at the student section, taking notice. The crowd serenaded them with loud cheers and songs. Christon definitely wished he had a pair of Beats headphones to block out the crowd, as he was a non factor after he trash talked after making the three pointer.
Villanova let their play do the talking. Their 53 points in the second half alone was almost just as much as the 58 points Xavier put up for the whole game. Tonight’s win brought the ninth 20-win season under Jay Wright. He is now tied with Rollie Massimino for the most 20-win seasons as a Villanova coach.
James Bell finished the game with 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. 21 of his points came in the second half. Darrun Hilliard had 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. JayVaughn Pinkston added 11 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.
For Xavier, Semaj Christon had 17 points with 4 assists. Matt Stainbrook ended the game with a double-double, 14 points and 11 rebounds. Justin Martin chipped in 13 points and 2 rebounds.
The Wildcats improve to 20-2 and take on the Seton Hall Pirates this Friday night. The last time the Wildcats played the Pirates, they won 83-67. Tip off is at 7 p.m.