Villanova Opens the Season – Wins With Some Old and Some New

The Villanova Wildcats Win First Game Under Kyle Neptune

VILLANOVA, PA. 11/7/2022 –

The season opener with a new coach at Villanova, Kyle Neptune, Fran Dunphy returns to the bench to head the La Salle Explorers, Much to think about. Neptune gets his first win behind veteran players Caleb Daniels, Eric Dixon, and Brandon Slater 81 – 68 over La Salle at the Finneran Pavilion.

“I get all the hype, first game, first Big Five game, brand new coaches, first game,” said Neptune. “I think everyone had a unique resolve when we think about playing and coaching for each other. That’s what we think about. When you think that way, there is nothing to be nervous about.”

Career High’s For Daniels and Dixon

Daniels scored a game-high 24 points by Daniels. The graduate guard made 8 of his 11 shots, and he set his career-high in made three-pointers sinking 6 of his 7 from beyond the arc. He pulled down 10 rebounds, one shy of his best. And credited his teammates.

“My teammates finding me and trusting me,” said Daniels.

Dixon scored 20 points as 8 of his 17 field goal attempts went in the basket. It was the most shots he had taken in a game. His 4 assists tied his career-best.

Brandon Slater made his way to 12 points, and tied his collegiate-best with 8 rebounds.

The Start Tilts the Game Toward Villanova

The Wildcats started quickly. They were making their shots, and La Salle was not. Nova pulled out to a 25 – 9 lead just over eleven minutes into the game on a Daniels made three-pointer. The Explorers hit only 4 of 17 field goal attempts. Meanwhile, the Wildcats would be good on 11 of 18 shots, with 6 made from beyond the arc. The start let the Cats settle in.

“We always want to play hard for forty minutes,” Neptune said. “Starting the game was important for us, but we knew they were going to make runs. One thing we can do is keep going.”

La Salle Made Runs

The Explorers would make runs to get back into contention. On three occasions the gap was cut to 11 points. The first happened early at the 17:18 mark on a Josh Nickelberry layup. The next was on a three-pointer by Hassan Drame with 5:04 to play. The last made the score 71 – 60 when Nickelberry converted a layup with 3:01 on the clock.

Nickelberry became the main offensive threat for La Salle getting 22 points shooting 7 of 12 and 5 of 9 from distance. He got 14 of his points in the second half where he got into a flow.

“I had a couple of shots, we got a couple of stops, and started working our way back,” Nickleberry said. “It wasn’t really me making shots. The momentum shifted a little bit, so I fed off it and got some rhythm.

The team displayed what Dunphy was looking for them to do in that situation.

“That’s what you want from your guys,” said Dunphy. “We’ve talked about it every single day, the momentum of games. Get on a bit of a run, that would be great. Again, proud of their effort, and believe we have lots to do.”

What the Numbers Say

Simply put, who make more shots, win the game. Villanova made 55% of their field goal attempts (29 of 52) and 13 of 20 (65%) from three-point land. La Salle mode 40% (22 of 55) and 10 of 25 three’s. When the Explorers made their move, they converted half of their shots, 13 of 26. La Salle won the second half 45 – 44.

Welcome Back Fran

Dunphy returned to the bench. He shared what he missed the most.

“You miss the juice when you’re out,” Dunphy said. “You get agita all day long. It’s just awesome to watch the kids play doing some really good things out there.”

Up Next

The Wildcats play another Big Five game next going to North Broad Street for a game with the Temple Owls on Friday. La Salle hosts Wagner on Saturday.


Written By: Glenn Papazian


Eric Dixon Hook Shot

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