MUSKIES ALMOST CLIMB THE HILL-LOSE TO VILLANOVA 64-60 !!
Andy Mac Williams,
All the elements were in place for an epic Xavier win over BIG EAST Cadillac Villanova. Sell-out crowd-rabid student section-revenge motive after that 71-58 loss to VU 3 weeks ago in Philly. Cintas was electric. Unfortunately, Muskies laid a 1st half eggs-fell behind by 17 w/ 3:17 to go before halftime and trailed 38-27 at the break. X shot the ball horrendously for the game (33% FG-21% from "3") missing about 12 lay-ups and close-in post shots. BIGS Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge were a combined 3-12. Give VU credit. They played the body on drives and post catches. Nova also pounded XU on the glass especially early(40-32 full game edge). X was one and done on most 1st half possessions.
Xavier let Villanova's star guards Moore and Gillespie roam and post-up at will(40 total points). Mega-strong VU post Eric Dixon punked X on the block(15 points-10 rebounds). VU came in shooting a strong 80% from the FT line. They were super human vs Xavier (20-21 -95%).
The fight was there for Muskies in half two. They dug in on defense - got much better on the glass-scored some on put backs forced a bunch of Nova turnovers (13 total-way above their average of under 9/game) and scored the ball.
X was down 54-45 w/ 6:30 left. Travis Steele went to a line-up of Scruggs, Nate Johnson, Kunkel, Colby Jones and Jack Nunge. That group willed the game into a 56-56 tie w/ 2:12 to go!! Super sticky defense-Scruggs making shots-Jones and Nunge drawing fouls!! It was impressive and stirring!!
Muskies had two chances to tie or take the lead in the last 30 seconds. VU forced tough contested shots and made their FTs to win it.
Certainly not death for Xavier to lose to a NET #7 team unless they let it carry over to Creighton at Cintas Saturday (Noon on FOX) and next week's road trips to DePaul and Marquette.
Muskies are 2-2 BIG EAST now w/ both defeats to Villanova. The effort was there for X. Nova showed more poise and were physically bully boys before the half. X punched back hard - not enough to overcome brutal shooting.