by Tim Daniel
In Big East play it is groundhog day...... Again.
The continuous issue of can Xavier beat Villanova came into play yet again tonight at Cintas. Jay Wright is now 16-4 against Xavier in his career and Xavier has now lost 16 of 18 games against Villanova since joining the Big East. To paraphrase the great Roddy Piper, just when Xavier knows the answers, Nova changes the questions.
The Musketeers got off to a slow start which lead to a tough hole for the team to dig themselves out of. With 4:12 to go in the first half Villanova had a 34-17 lead. From there, Xavier managed to go on a little bit of a run to cut the deficit down to 11 at the half, 38-27. Xavier was just 7-25 from the floor in the half, and 2-12 from three. Thankfully, free-throw shooting kept them alive.
On the other end, Villanova didn't have the most efficient half. The Wildcats shot 38% from the floor and just 27% from three. Collin Gillespie scored 14 points in the half to lead the way for 'Nova but was just 4/13 from the floor.
In the second half, Xavier fought like hell to get back in the game starting with 10-4 run to bring the difference down to seven at the first media timeout of the half. After Villanova extended the lead to 12 points with 10:09 remaining the Musketeers kicked into gear, and made this quite the ball game.
Xavier went on a 16-2 run to tie the game at 56 all with just 2:17 to go. The Musketeers did a great job switching defenses giving Villanova a few different looks that they had trouble adjusting to including a few big three-point baskets from Paul Scruggs.
Though from there, Villanova forced themselves to the free-throw line to close out the game and take the victory away from the Musketeers.
Obviously, this is a frustrating result for the team, but the way they were able to fight back and make this a game is something they can build off of moving forward.
This is a game of missed chances for Xavier. Between shooting just 21% from three, and way too many missed layups this is a game Xavier could have pulled off. The Musketeers only had six turnovers the whole game forced 13 from Villanova and also managed to get a few of the Wildcats rotational players in foul trouble... This is one where maybe the Wildcats will breathe a sigh of relief this game didn't go to overtime.
Up next for the Musketeers, Saturday afternoon right back here at Cintas hosting the Creighton Blue Jays. Creighton has not played since January 5th when they took a beating from Villanova themselves. Tip-off will be at 12 PM ET and will air on Fox.
*Photos courtesy of Desmond Fischer of the Xavier Newswire