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Villanova gets eliminated in first round of the NIT after disappointing loss to Liberty

Written by on March 16, 2023

Villanova loses to Liberty, 62-57, in one of the most disappointing games of the season. In the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night, the Wildcats played the 27-8 ASUN Championship Runner-up, Liberty Flames, without two of their main starters in Justin Moore and Cam Whitmore. In place of Moore and Whitmore, Mark Armstrong and Jordan Longino got the start for Nova. The Wildcats only had seven players check into the game on Tuesday night in Virginia.

Game Recap

First Half

In the first half, the Wildcats and Flames went back in forth offensively and defensively. The Flames’ average leading scorer on the season, Darius McGhee, was 5-13 from the field with 12 points in the first twenty minutes of play. The Wildcats also had a tough time defensively against Colin Porter, who scored 8 points and grabbed five rebounds for Liberty in the first.

In terms of offense for Villanova, the Wildcats’ leading scorer of the first half was Eric Dixon. After making an early three to get Villanova on the board, Dixon totaled nine points in the first half with seven rebounds. The only other starter for the Wildcats with more than four points in the first half was Jordan Longino, who was also 4-4 from the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes of play. With 4:38 left in the first half, Villanova tied the game at 23, but the Flames went on a 9-2 run to lead by seven points at the end of the first half.

Halftime Score: Villanova 25, Liberty 32

Second Half

In the second half, Villanova continued to struggle offensively, especially from behind the arc. The Wildcats finished 4-26 from three for just 15.4%. Darius McGhee also continued to make key buckets for Liberty. McGhee made three three-pointers in the second half and finished with 26 points and +6 on the evening. Mark Armstrong cut the Villanova deficit to three points with 2:53 left to play after a layup. However, McGhee responded again with a three-point jumper from almost the halfcourt logo to extend the Liberty lead to six points.

The Wildcats had one final opportunity after a Shiloh Robinson turnover led to a Brandon Slater three for Nova with 0:23 left on the game clock. The Wildcats would foul Colin Porter, who would shoot two free-throws, with 22 seconds left and a 61-57 lead for Liberty. Porter missed both free throws, but Brendan Hausen could not knock down a three-pointer as a last chance effort for Villanova. The Wildcats would lose to Liberty, 62-57, in the first round of the NIT.

Final Stats


After scoring 27 combined points in the two games of the Big East Tournament, Brandon Slater had another excellent game for the Wildcats. Slater led Nova in scoring with 18 points while shooting 8-13 from the field. He also accumulated nine rebounds in 36 minutes. After a hot start, Eric Dixon finished with a double-double: 5-15 from the field for 12 points and 13 rebounds. Mark Armstrong scored 12 points for the Wildcats on Tuesday night and was +5 when on the court. Caleb Daniels’ offensive struggles continued by only scoring 4 points and shooting 2-15 from the field and 0-9 from three. The surprise in this game was that Brendan Hausen did not check into the game until about five minutes into the second half. Hausen played just 15 minutes but knocked down a crucial three.

The Wildcats finished 24-65 from the field for 36.9%. Nova was just 4-26 from behind the arc in the game. Villanova turned the ball over eight times on Tuesday night.

Liberty Flames

Darius McGhee, who averages 22.6 points per game, scored 26 total points for the Flames. Colin Porter was the other starter for the Flames to achieve double digits with 14 points. Liberty had good contribution from their bench with nine total points compared to Villanova’s three bench points.