Self-inflicted mistakes and offensive struggles lead to late game catastrophe for Villanova | Villanova vs. Xavier Recap
Written by David Szczepanski on February 8, 2024
Some self-inflicted mistakes and offensive struggles lead to Villanova’s 7th conference loss of the season as they lose to Xavier, 56-53. The Wildcats’ defense did everything they could to limit the Musketeers but scoring just 25 points in the second half cost Villanova in the end. Brendan Hausen was the player of the game for Villanova with 15 points and three rebounds in 19 minutes. Eric Dixon shot just 1-5 from behind the arc, but he totaled 13 points and four rebounds. Justin Moore’s struggles continue as he scored just three points on 1 of 6 shooting from the field. Villanova converted just 34% of their shots from the field and 28.6% from behind the arc.
Xavier won the rebounding battle by three rebounds, and the Musketeers had one less turnover than the Wildcats (9-8). The main differences were the inability to score in the final few minutes of the game with missed layups and the lack of ball movement. Villanova could not get a shot off in the final 18 seconds of the game to even attempt to force overtime in Cincinnati, Ohio. Villanova also had just 11 assists compared to Xavier’s 17 assists, including seven assists from Dayvion McKnight.
The Musketeers also did not have their best offensive performance by any means. Xavier shot 34.4% from the field and just 22.2% from three in 27 attempts. Villanova outperformed Xavier from behind the arc in this low scoring matchup. Quincy Olivari and Desmond Claude combined for 25 points and 14 rebounds.
First Half: Wildcats’ 13-0 run provides a spark
Villanova struggled offensively to begin the game. Xavier led 5-2 at the first media timeout. Olivari and McKnight extended Xavier’s lead to eight points with 12:41 left in the first half. Dailyn Swain converted a nice dunk with 9:10 left in the first half to give Xavier a ten-point advantage.
The Wildcats battled back with a 13-0 run and took the lead after a Brendan Hausen three-point jumper. Villanova has been on the opposite end of so many large runs this season, so it was nice to see them close out the first half on a positive note. Villanova led by as many as five points in the first half, but Olivari converted a three at the last second of the first half. The Cats’ took a 28-26 lead into the locker room at the break.
Second Half: Bad Offensive Half for Villanova + Late Game Mistakes
Mark Armstrong shot just 1-8 from the field for 4 points. He was a -11 when on the court in his 27 game minutes, but he started the second half with two successful free throws. However, Xavier’s defense did an excellent job to prevent Villanova from continuing their momentum from the first half. The Musketeers’ defense has been questionable at times this season, but they excelled against Villanova’s offense, especially in the second half.
Villanova’s first made field goal in the second half came at the 15:26 mark with a Hausen three. Xavier and McKnight took a seven-point lead with 10:33 left to play. TJ Bamba’s defense was great in the first half, but he did not score his first point until midway in the second half. He scored four quick points on driving layups to cut the deficit to just three points.
After some nice scoring in the paint by Villanova, they would tie the game at 50 with less than six minutes to play. Swain and Claude put Xavier up by four points until Hausen converted a layup and split a pair of free throws to pull Villanova within one point with just 45 seconds left. Coach Neptune on Hausen’s big game: “He’s a big time player. He does so many things for your team. He’s defending much better.”
Last 18 Seconds of the Game + My Thoughts
Olivari was fouled by Justin Moore and converted both free throws. Xavier led by three points with 18 seconds left. Sean Miller and the Musketeers called their final timeout. Villanova had 18 seconds on the clock to tie the game. The Wildcats crossed halfcourt with 14 seconds left and could not even get a shot attempt off. Xavier’s defense locked down Villanova’s offense, but with all that time to work with out of the timeout, it was embarrassing for Villanova to not make any shot attempt. It was clear Villanova wanted to go to Brendan Hausen for the three-point attempt, but Xavier absolutely knew what was coming. Villanova’s offense just is not consistent enough to compete every game. When asked about the final minute of the loss to Xavier and not getting a shot off in the final 18 seconds, Coach Neptune credited Xavier, “Just a grind. We had our chances. Had to get some stops, they made some timely baskets.”
WXVU Live Coverage + Battle against Seton Hall
Villanova falls to 12-11 overall and 5-7 in conference play. The painful late close game losses continue to add up for Villanova in a time where almost every game is a “must win” situation. Coach Neptune on tonight’s loss to Xavier: “I thought we came out and played extremely hard. Tough environment, Xavier’s a tough team.” The Wildcats prepare next for a Super Bowl Sunday test against Seton Hall at the Wells Fargo Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 12pm from South Philly. WXVU will have live coverage of Villanova vs. Seton Hall beginning at 11:30am with the pregame show.