Villanova Outlasts UCLA 65 – 56

A Determined Villanova Found a Way To Win

PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/9/2023 –

A game where neither team shot the ball well. They were held under their season average in points and shooting percentage. The determining factor would be defense, rebounding, and old fashioned grit and determination. And Villanova showed it pulling away late for a 65 – 56 win over the UCLA Bruins before 16, 823 at the Wells Fargo Center.

“Really proud of our guys grind out win against a great defensive team, a team that was really together and made it tough,” said Villanova Coach Kyle Neptune. “I was proud of our guys resiliency on a night where we didn’t make shots. I was really proud of our guys resolve.”

Cold Shooting and Defensive Intensity on Both Sides

Villanova has a key indicator, score more than 70 points. That did not happen. But UCLA averages 71, and that too did not happen. Each squad experienced stretches of the game where they did not score. The most damaging for the Bruins came later in the second half. They led 45 – 41 at the 8:24 mark, then did not score for nearly five minutes that allowed the Cats to take control of the game. Overall, Nova made 19 of 58 (32.8% nearly 9 percentage points below their average of 41%) and 11 of 35 three-pointers. The Bruins usually make 45% of their shots. In this game 22 of 60 shots went in (36.7%) and 7 of 19 three-pointers. Shooting was colder in the first half.

Defensively, both teams held the opponent to under the shooting percentage usually yielded.

Decisive Run

The game turned in the direction of Villanova during that UCLA scoreless streak. The Wildcats trailing by four scored the next 11 points to take a 52 – 45 lead, and the closest the Bruins came was 4 points late in the game. The run was started by Wildcats guard Hakim Hart who made a free throw and a three-pointer. His thoughts were more on the other end of the floor.

“I feel like it was big momentum, but we still take pride on defense and rebounding,” Hart said. “That was our main focus on the game.”

Villanova guard Brendan Hausen continued the spurt making a pair of triples. His first three put Nova in front for good at 48 – 45. His second three-pointer gave the Cats a 7-point advantage.

“Those of us who have been around Brendan Hausen know what he is,” Neptune said of his reserve guard. “We’ve all seen him shoot the ball, so we never worry about him.”


The battle of the boards went to Villanova by a 43 – 38 margin. The Cats won on the offensive boards 14 – 10 which contributed to a 16 – 10 edge in second chance points. Critical when points were hard to come by. Villanova forwards Tyler Burton and Eric Dixon took down 10 caroms each, both 5 offensive and 5 defensive. Lazar Stefanovic had 9 for UCLA.

What the Numbers Say

The Bruins had two scorers in double-digits. Stefanovic scored a team-high 14 points. Forward Adem Bona added 11 and he had 8 boards.

Burton had a game-high 18 points. He went 3 of12 from the floor and 1 of 7 from deep. However, he was deadly at the foul line making 11 of 14 free throws. Hart broke double figures getting 10 points, one below his season-high, converting 3 of 5 from deep. All of his baskets were three’s which is a season-high.

Up Next

UCLA falls to 5 – 3 on the season with Ohio State next on the schedule next week.

This is the final non-conference game for Villanova (7 – 4). After a break they travel to Creighton on December 20th. The break will be welcome in a season where anything can be expected.

“We got a little break right now to go back and get better,” Neptune said.

“At this point you have to expect the unexpected. I’m not surprised by anything. You can get a leprechaun to walk through here right now. Whatever happens happens and we’ll deal with it and move on to the next situation.”


Written By: Glenn Papazian


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