December 23, 2020 –
The fifth-ranked Villanova Wildcats concluded the schedule for the 2020 calendar year playing Marquette in Milwaukee. This was the ninth game of the season for the Wildcats, seven of them were away from the Finneran Pavilion. And they’ll begin 2021 at Xavier, but let’s stay in the present.
In the last game in 2020 the Wildcats pulled away in the second half to take an 85 – 68 win over the Golden Eagles who defeated two other top-ten teams this season. Nova would not be another victim and clamped down on defense late in the first half to get the separation. The bench provided that defensive spark in the form of Brandon Slater and Cole Swider.
“That was a good second half defensive effort,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “Towards the end of the first half we were starting to get connected defensively.”
“They (Slater and Swider) did a good job. We’re not getting off to good starts and I want to get those guys in there. They got us going and did a great job.”
The game was tight early. Villanova took a 36 – 30 lead into halftime. The Wildcats broke it open in the opening ten minutes of the stanza by giving up just ten points while getting 27 of their own. Nova made 16 of 31 in the half and drained 6 of 15 three-pointers. The Cats forced 17 turnovers leading to an 18 – 3 edge in points off turnovers. They let the offense work off the defense.
“Defense is our best offense and our defensive mindset helps us in a lot of ways,” said forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl who had a team-best 7 rebounds. “We’re able to adjust in a lot of situations. We just keep playing together, communicate, and play hard. Our defense helps us keep going in games.”
In any given game any Villanova player can be the offensive star. In Milwaukee it was Collin Gillespie who led the team in scoring with 22 points making 6 of 11 from beyond the arc, just one shy of a career-high for made three-pointers. He also handed out 4 assists.
“I was just catching and shooting and playing off my jump shot,” said Gillespie about what was working for him on offense. “I was getting open shots and guys were finding me.”
Four other Wildcats scored in double figures. Justin Moore added 14 points and had a team-high 5 assists. Robinson-Earl had 13 points. Slater and Caleb Daniels contributed 10 each. Villanova turned the ball over just 4 times.
Marquette got a team-high 15 points from Jamal Cain. D.J. Carton and Theo John added 10 apiece.
For the fifth time this season the Wildcats have scored more than 80 points. Now, the players will have their families come to celebrate the holiday with them.
Written By: Glenn Papazian