Villanova holds on to defeat Xavier in the final seconds | Villanova vs. Xavier Recap + St. John’s Preview
Written by David Szczepanski on January 6, 2024
Despite some late game management issues, Villanova holds on to defeat Xavier, 66-65, in their Big East home opener. The Wildcats improve to 10-4 overall and 3-0 in Big East play. They are the only team left undefeated in conference play in the Big East. The Cats’ converted 38% of their shots from the field and 33.3% from three. Hakim Hart led Villanova with 14 points and three assists in 29 minutes. Eric Dixon grabbed nine rebounds and scored 13 points. Brendan Hausen knocked down four three-pointers against the Musketeers.
Xavier shot 36.8% from the field, but they converted just 27.8% of their shots from behind the arc. Quincy Olivari made just 3 of 13 shots from the field, but he finished with 14 points on the evening. Dayvion McKnight was 5-10 from the field with 12 points and three assists. The Musketeers won the turnover battle against the Wildcats, 12-8.
Game Recap: A Defensive Battle at the Finn
As expected, Villanova and Xavier played a close and gritty game. The Musketeers led by about four points for the first five minutes of the game. But Brendan Hausen and the Wildcats responded with some good three-point shooting to take an eight-point lead with 7:14 left to play in the first half. Hakim Hart also continued his efficient scoring with four points in about 10 seconds. Villanova took a 29-21 lead with 4:49 left. However, Xavier continued to make shots to keep the Musketeers in the game and never let Villanova extend their lead by too many points. Villanova took a five-point lead into halftime.
Brendan Hausen and Hakim Hart both scored nine points in the first twenty minutes. Despite Hausen’s strong three-point shooting, the Wildcats struggled from behind the arc at the end of the first half. They converted just 5 of 20 shots from three at the end of the half. The Wildcats outrebounded the Musketeers, 25-21, in the first twenty minutes. Xavier’s average leading scorer, Quincy Olivari, scored seven points on 2-7 shooting in the first half.
Villanova started the second half with some scoring from Jordan Longino, who did not score in the first twenty minutes. Longino started in place of the injured Justin Moore. The Wildcats led by ten-points after a Hausen three with 15 minutes left in the second. Xavier cut the deficit to four points after a nice run in the middle of the second half. The Musketeers continued to battle and trailed by just one point with 2:05 left in regulation. Villanova had a lot of difficulty scoring, which allowed Xavier to have a chance to win late in this game. After a pair of Dixon free throws, the Cats’ led by three points with 12 seconds left. However, Dayvion McKnight responded with an easy layup. McKnight was excellent in the second half and gave the Musketeers a chance.
Wildcats Hold On
Nervousness continued to creep into the Finneran Pavilion. The Wildcats struggled offensively in the second half and could not hold on to their double-digit lead. Kachi Nzeh fouled Dixon for two free throws. Dixon, who is usually an excellent free throw shooter, missed both attempts. After leading by as many as ten points, Villanova was just one shot away from one of their worst losses of the season. Desmond Claude had just four seconds to make the game winning shot. The Wildcats played good defense and contested the shot from Claude enough to prevent the potential game winner. Nova Nation could breathe a sigh of relief and the Wildcats remained undefeated in conference play.
St. John’s Preview
In Rick Pitino’s first year as head coach of the Red Storm, St. John’s has won 10 of their first 14 games. They are 2-1 in Big East play. St. John’s defeated Xavier and Butler, but they lost to UConn. However, the Red Storm were defeated by just four points against the Huskies and the game took place in Connecticut.
The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 66-64. Villanova defeated St. John’s in both of their games last season. The Red Storm are led by Joel Soriano. Soriano averages 17.1 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. He scored 14 points against Butler on January 2nd and will not be an easy task for Eric Dixon. Daniss Jenkins, RJ Luis Jr., Chris Ledlum, and Jordan Dingle are the other four starters and are all averaging at least ten points per game. They are all transfers as Soriano is the only starter that played for the Red Storm in 2022-23.
The Red Storm have used their veteran experience and star play by Soriano to start the season on an extremely positive note. St. John’s rebounds the ball well and limits turnovers with just seven per game. They average about 80 points per game. Villanova is favored to win this game and they have an advantage with the game being played at the Finn, but I would not be surprised if St. John’s defeated Villanova in a close game. The Wildcats must improve their offense and late game management to defeat the Red Storm.
WXVU will have live coverage of Villanova vs. St. John’s on Saturday, January 6th beginning with pregame coverage at 12:30pm and followed by tipoff at 1pm.