Villanova vs. American Recap + Le Moyne Preview
Written by David Szczepanski on November 8, 2023
Villanova defeats American University, 90-63, in their season opener. The Wildcats played their first game at the Finn since February 14 against Butler. The Finn crowd has really helped this team in their home games, as Villanova was 7-2 at the Finn last season and 40-5 since its renovation before the 2018-19 season.
Overall Quick Game Stats
Villanova finished the evening with five players scoring double-digits: Tyler Burton, Eric Dixon, TJ Bamba, Justin Moore, and Hakim Hart. All of the transfers had a large impact on this game, including Lance Ware, who played well defensively. Tyler Burton and Eric Dixon led the way for Villanova offensively with 15 points each. The Wildcats shot 54% from the field and 37% from three at the end of the game. Villanova also dominated scoring in the paint by outscoring American, 38-22, in those situations.
Colin Smalls led all scorers with 16 points for the Eagles. Smalls knocked down three of his five three-point attempts. He also was 5-8 from the field. The Wildcats limited the Eagles’ top scorer from 2022-23, Matt Rogers, to just 8 points on 3-11 from the field. Rogers was a -18 on the court. Jermaine Ballisager Webb struggled defensively in the paint against Dixon, but he scored 13 points on Monday evening.
American shot just 33% from the field and 30% from three. The Eagles turned the ball over 11 times and were outrebounded by Villanova, 41-31.
Full Game Recap
Villanova did not get off to a good start to begin their season against American University. With 15 minutes left in the first half, the Wildcats trailed to the heavy underdog, Eagles, 8-6. Villanova and American continued to exchange baskets, and the Wildcats trailed the Eagles, 17-16, with 10:30 left to play in the first.
Eric Dixon was the major offensive player for Villanova in the first ten minutes. There was a clear difference on both sides of the court, especially in the paint, when Dixon was on the bench midway in the first. The Wildcats offense struggled to move the ball and missed some shots on the perimeter. After the media timeout in the middle of the first half, Justin Moore made a driving layup to give Villanova the lead, 18-17. The Wildcats never gave up the lead again and cruised to victory.
At the end of the first half, Eric Dixon led all scorers with 12 points and four rebounds. Dixon was a +8 on the floor for the Wildcats. TJ Bamba and Jordan Longino both had seven points. Villanova shot 57% from the field in the first half but made just two of ten three-point shots in the first twenty minutes. When asked about the first half struggles from three, Coach Neptune said, “We know that we have great confidence that we have good offensive players that can make shots. But defensively is where this team is really going to have to lock in and continue to get better.” He stressed the importance of playing good defense regardless of how the shots are currently falling.
The Wildcats took a 41-31 lead into the locker room at halftime. There was some nervous energy in the first ten minutes, but once the Wildcats knocked the rust off, they never looked back and played with a lot of energy, especially on defense.
Second Half Cats
To begin the second half, Villanova continued to knock down shots, including improving from behind the arc. The Wildcats also locked down on defense, which was emphasized by a tremendous sequence led by a TJ Bamba dive for a loose ball, Justin Moore block, and a Tyler Burton three. When asked about that sequence that rocked the Finn and allowed the sold-out crowd to rise and cheer, Burton said, “That’s just Villanova basketball. We go over it every day: sacrificing yourself for the team and earning your honor with your team.”
Tyler Burton and TJ Bamba had a fantastic second half on both sides of the court. Burton and Bamba combined for 18 points and eight rebounds just in the second half. The Wildcats’ big lead and tremendous play by the transfers allowed Coach Neptune to sit Eric Dixon late in the game. When asked about having a deeper team this season, Dixon said, “It’s great comfort to just be able to go out there and give everything and to know the next guy coming in is going to do the same exact things. I think we all have confidence 1 through 15 that each person will come in and be committed to doing what we are trying to do.” In his homecoming, Hakim Hart scored nine points in the second half while shooting 3-5 from the field.
In the second half, Villanova knocked down 8 of their 17 three-pointers. The Wildcats defense held the Eagles to a 33% shooting percentage from the field. The Eagles, especially Lincoln Ball, took many three-pointers in the second half. They only converted 3 of their 15 three-point attempts. American did win the battle of points in the paint in the second half, but this was due to Dixon playing limited minutes in the second.
Player of the Game
Player of the Game: Tyler Burton
There are many players to choose from for the player of the game honors, but Tyler Burton is my selection. Burton carried the Wildcats offense in the second half and produced the loudest moment in the Finn on Monday night after his three-pointer from long range. Burton brings a lot of experience to this Villanova team, and he shined in his first game as a Wildcat. Even in the first half when he was struggling to knock down some shots, Burton played well on defense. Coach Neptune stressed the importance of playing hard, outworking the other team, and playing good defense even if the team is struggling offensively.
Burton also mentioned his smooth transition to Villanova. “It’s been great. I got a great coach, great teammates, especially the older guys just pulling me along with them. Teaching me the ways of being a Villanova basketball player.” He added, “The transition has been pretty smooth.”
Le Moyne Preview
Villanova will take on the Le Moyne Dolphins on Friday night at 6:30pm at the Finn. This is the Dolphins first season in Division I Basketball. Against Division II competition, Le Moyne finished the 2022-23 season with an overall record of 15-15 and a conference record of 11-9. The Dolphins played well at home but struggled on the road last season.
In their season opener, Le Moyne battled Georgetown in DC on Tuesday night. The Dolphins lost 94-57 and shot just 32% from the field. They were outrebounded 54-30.
The Dolphins’ most efficient shooter is Mike DePersia, a senior from Cherry Hill, NJ. DePersia scored eight points against Georgetown and averaged 6.4 points per game last season as a member of IUPUI. Kaiyem Cleary led the Dolphins with 11 points last night and seven rebounds. Cleary played for Ball State last season, where he averaged two points and five minutes per game. Luke Sutherland, Isaiah Salter, and Darrick Jones Jr. are the other starters for the Dolphins.
Trent Mosquera and Nathan McClure combined for 15 points off the bench for Le Moyne against Georgetown. Mosquera was 4-10 from the field but did not make a three-pointer in his six attempts. McClure was 3-6 from the field with five rebounds.
The Wildcats should easily defeat the Dolphins, as they are just starting their Division I Program. The Wildcats are currently ranked #22.
WXVU will have live coverage of Friday’s matchup against Le Moyne beginning at 6pm with the pregame show followed by tipoff at 6:30pm. We will also discuss this game on Thursday afternoon at 12pm on “Villanova Sports Talk.”