VCU Ends the Season for Villanova

The VCU Rams Win the First Round Game in the NIT 70 – 61 Over the Villanova Wildcats

VILLANOVA, PA. 3/20/2024 –

The season is over for the Villanova Wildcats as they suffer a 70 – 61 defeat to the VCU Rams in the opening round of the NIT. The Wildcats finish the season with an 18 – 16 record. This was a tightly contested game by each team who thought they would be playing in a different postseason tournament. But the game was at the Finneran Pavilion, and the next loss for either team would be their final loss of the season. That fate awaited Villanova.

Wildcats coach Kyle Neptune thought the difference was due to the height and length of the VCU players.

“I thought they made it hard for us to score,” said Neptune. “Again, I thought their length affected us.”

“I thought we were a little off balance by their wings. I really feel they clogged the paint and made it hard for us to get the ball moving. They didn’t let us get to the offensive glass. They kept us out of transition. They just did a good job.”

Back and Forth Contest

VCU held a 31 – 30 lead at halftime. In the second half both teams would be in a single possession from one another until the Rams took a 53 – 49 lead at the 8:51 mark. During that stretch there were 10 lead changes and the game was tied 5 times. Over the course of the game the lead changed hands 17 times and they were even at 10 different stages.

The advantage would grow to 56 – 49 for the visitors. Villanova forward Eric Dixon wiped that away scoring the next 8 points. The see-saw continued until VCU ended the last five minutes of the game, which was tied at 58, with a 12 – 3 run.

“It’s all about who could put multiple stops together while still being able to score,” said VCU Coach Ryan Odom. “And who can really wrap their arms around the game at the end to get stops. Ultimately that’s what basketball is all about. Can you get the key stops without fouling. Can you get the key baskets at a tight time.”

The Trends That Hurt Nova

Two season long situations that did not go in favor of Villanova showed in this game. The Wildcats are now 1 – 11 when the opponent scores 70 or more points.

The three-point percentage is another barometer. Villanova is now 14 – 6 when connecting on 33% of their three-point shots. In this game the Cats made just 6 of 23 from beyond the arc for 26.1%. Brendan Hausen drained 3 of his 6 shots from deep as the only Wildcat to have multiple threes.

In closely contested game down the stretch Nova lost 4 of the last 5 games, all that could have gone either way.

What the Numbers Say

Villanova had 13 turnovers, one more than VCU. But the Rams got 16 points off turnovers compared to 9 for the Wildcats. That stat also propelled VCU in fast break points edge 18 – 12.

Dixon scored a game-high 21 points and also took down a game-best 13 rebounds to tie his career-high in caroms. This is the fourth double-double of the season for Dixon who scored 11 of the last 12 points for his team. TJ Bamba and Mark Armstrong posted double figures in points getting 12 and 10. Justin Moore closed out his Villanova career scoring just 2 points, but grabbed 6 rebounds.

VCU saw 9 of the 10 players who took the floor score. Joe Bamisile led the team with 17 points. Max Shulga added 10 points. Toibu Lawal took down a team-high 10 rebounds to tie his collegiate-best for the seventh time.

Up Next

VCU will advance to play USF in the second round of the NIT.

From a Philly perspective, this loss coupled with Saint Joseph’s overtime defeat at Seton Hall, three women’s programs still continue to compete. Drexel has a Friday game at Texas in the NCAA Tournament. Saint Joseph’s plays Seton Hall and Villanova meets VCU tomorrow in the WBIT.

The Nova men’s program has to look forward to the 2024-25 campaign. One they hope will return the team back to its former lofty standards.

“Obviously, we didn’t have the results we wanted towards the end of the season,” Neptune said. “I get it, I get the frustration. All we can do as a staff is go back, put our heads together and try to come up with a great plan. And we’re going to push our guys as hard as possible in the off season to improve. we’re going to come back better than ever next year.”


Written By: Glenn Papazian


Mark Armstrong With a Layup

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