A showdown of Big East titans quickly turned ugly on Tuesday night as No. 3 Villanova overcame a slow start to bury No. 15 Xavier in the second half, 79-54. Seniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins each scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds as they helped the ‘Cats (16-1, 4-1 Big East) pull away.
When the Musketeers (13-3, 3-1 Big East) hit five of their first 10 3-point shots to open the evening, it seemed like the Wildcats were in for another grueling Big East battle. Xavier jumped ahead to a 24-16 before the ‘Cats closed out the half on an 18-4 run to jump ahead, 34-28.
After its hot start shooting the long ball, Xavier was just 1-of-22 from beyond the arc for the rest of the game. Villanova capitalized on Xavier’s erratic shooting by making timely buckets and building its lead. The ‘Cats led by double digits for the final 16 minutes en route to the convincing victory.
The Wildcats had a much more efficient night on offense, shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from distance. Jenkins was 4-of-8 from deep and Hart added two 3-pointers of his own. They were often set up by point guard Jalen Brunson, who finished his night with six assists and zero turnovers to accompany his 11 points.
Despite an obvious lack of success from 3-point range, Xavier continued to shoot the long ball as a desperate attempt to climb back into the game. Four Musketeers attempted at least five 3-pointers, and each of them had at least four misses.
Junior Trevon Bluiett, junior J.P. Macura, and sophomore Edmond Sumner combined to shoot 9-of-35 from the field and were all held well below their respective season averages in scoring. Sumner led the Musketeers with 11 points with Bluiett and Macura each had 1o.
Senior guard Myles Davis saw his first action of the season for Xavier after missing the first two months of the season due to suspension. He was 0-of-5 from the field and finished the night with zero points.
The victory was ‘Nova’s 46th straight win at The Pavilion, tying a record streak the ‘Cats compiled from 2007-11. Their last defeat on the Main Line was a 55-52 heartbreaker against Bryce Cotton-led Providence on Feb. 3, 2013.
The ‘Cats have one more game against Xavier remaining on Feb. 11 on the Musketeers’ home floor in Cincinnati. Their next game, however, will be on the road against St. John’s (8-10, 2-3 Big East). Tip off for that game is scheduled for noon.