PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/18/2019 – Last season Xavier ended Villanova’s run as the Big East regular season champion. The Wildcats went on the win the National Championship. They meet again, not the same as last season, and not a revenge match. But it is a Big East game, always tough game. This was no different.
The #21/22 Wildcats remain unbeaten in the conference with a hard fought 85 – 75 win over the Xavier Musketeers at the Wells Fargo Center. Senior Phil Booth led the way for the Cats with a game-high 22 points.
“They (Xavier) are a physical, tough defensive, rebounding team,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “You’ve got to be willing to fight and scrap it out. In the second half we did a better job of defending and rebounding.”
Where Villanova had a clear advantage was at the three-point line. The Wildcats made 15 of 34 from distance while holding the Musketeers to only 6 of 18. Guard Collin Gillespie made 6 of 10 from beyond the arc, setting a career-high for made three’s, for his 18 point performance. Booth made 5 of 9 from three-point land.
Midway through the second half the contest was still in doubt. Xavier got to within 51 – 50 on a three-pointer by Paul Scruggs. From there the Cats took over behind an 8 – 0 run over the next 1:25 to go in front by 9 points. Booth and forward Jermaine Samuels hit back to back three’s with the shot clock winding down to start the run.
“That’s a very good defensive team, Xavier,” Booth said. “They hove good length. Some times shots go, but they make everything difficult.”
Xavier did answer with a triple by Quentin Goodin at the 7 minute mark, but Nova turned to the defense and held the Musketeers without a field goal for three and a half minutes.
On the glass Villanova outrebounded Xavier by a 39 – 34 margin. Forward Eric Paschall had a team-high 8 rebounds to go along with 17 points. Forward Damir Cosby-Roundtree added 11 points, the third time he eclipsed double digits this season.
Booth has scored in double-figures in all but one game this season and Paschall has reached that level in 13 straight games.
“We’ve got to get some other guys going,” Wright said about the scoring distribution. “We’re going to wear those two out. Phil can continue this, but we have to get other guys to step up.”
Xavier was lead by Tyrique Jones who had 21 points, a career-high, and a game-best 12 boards, 9 on the offensive boards tying his season-high. Naji Marshall scored 15 points while Zach Hankins and Goodin contributed 12 points each.
Xavier goes to 11 – 8 for the season and is even in the conference at 3 – 3.
Villanova won their 6th in a row and leads the Big East with a 5 – 0 record. The Wildcats play at Butler in their next game. Wright sees a tough road ahead but feels his team is ready for the challenge ahead.
“The whole season is going to be that way,” said Wright. “I think the league is that way. We can be a good team by the end. Everything is going to be a grind. We’re ready for that. We’ve done a good job of grinding games out. We are surviving right now, but are getting better each game. We’re learning.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian