Xavier Falls to Villanova in Top-4 Matchup
#4 Xavier welcomed the #3 Villanova Wildcats to the Cintas Center for their second bout of the season. With the building packed to the tune of 10,777 fans, the atmosphere was electric. However, despite the raucous home crowd, the Musketeers fell up considerably short. Behind Mikal Bridges' 25 points, the Wildcats handed Xavier their 4th loss of the season by a final score of 95-79.
The score indicates a lopsided Villanova win, but there is more to the story than that. The first half began choppy with 3 foul calls on the Musketeers in the first 30 seconds. After the referee takeover subsided, the game settled into a fast paced tempo and Villanova held a 15-10 advantage at the under-12 timeout. From there, things became ugly. Bridges asserted his position as a lottery pick in the upcoming draft and the Wildcats were looking at a huge basket and could not miss. They would shoot a blistering 60% from the arc and the field and possess a 51-37 lead over the hometown Muskies and the rocking Cintas Center was silenced and lifeless.
The second half brought the life right back into the crowd. Trevon Bluiett kicked the half off with a 4 point play and a barn burner ensued. Bluiett wouldn't stop there and would amass most of his 26 points in a run that would pull the game to 61-58 by the 13:30 mark. This revitalized the crowd and gave a March-like feel to a game in mid-February. However, the final 10 minutes were all Nova. By the time the final buzzer sounded, fans were given a somber exit by the final score of 91-76.
Ultimately, this game is just a regular season loss to an excellent team. Xavier still has a legitimate shot to win the Big East and a coveted 1-seed is still within reach. However, this further solidified the point that Xavier needs to tighten up on the defensive end to be a contender in the coming months.
The 24-4 are heading to our nation's capitol to face off against the 15-10 Georgetown Hoyas on the 21st. Expect a fiery Xavier team to take the floor and bounce back appropriately.