USA Today

'Nova Takes X to Pound Town

#3 ranked, Villanova drubbed #15 Xavier, 79-54 at the Pavilion Tuesday night to advance to 4-1 and first place in the Big East ...

Villanova took a quality Xavier team to task this evening at the Pavilion.  The Cats handed the #15 ranked, Musketeers a 79-54 loss.  The 25 points largest margin of loss for Xavier since last New Year’s when the Musketeers were beaten by 31 by ‘Nova on the Main Line.

With Xavier up 24-16 and 6:41 remaining in the first half, Trevon Bluiett shot an errant three-pointer and the Cats answered with a nifty pass from Josh Hart to Jalen Brunson for a lay-up,  Instead of being down 11, ‘Nova was down 6 and started to turn the momentum of the game on the defensive end of the court.

The Musketeers would manage only 4 points in the remainder of the first half while Villanova surged to a six point half-time lead.  The second half started with the Wildcats running a perfect set to get Kris Jenkins a wide-open, wing three ball.  When the shot nestled into the basket the Cast were up 9.  Xavier was about to go on a trip to pound town, courtesy of a Villanova defense that limited them to 0.78 points per possession while a balanced offense, with five players in double figures and two with twenty points, provided more than enough points.

‘Nova got 20 points from Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, 11 from Jalen Brunson and 10 each from Darryl Reynolds and Donte DiVincenzo.

Goods:

  • Defense held the three elite Xavier scorers to 31 points combined
  • Five Cats with 10+ points
  • 50 points from the Senior class
  • Shooting: 71.4% 2PFG, 33.3% 3PFG, and 83.3% FT
  • 19 Assists to 12 Turnovers while holding Xavier to 8 Assists and 14 Turnovers

Others:

  • Allowed 12 Offensive rebounds for Xavier

Players:

Josh Hart (34 Min, 20 Points, 7-16 FG, 2-7 3PFG, 4-6 FT, 6 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 4 Turnovers, 1 Steal, 94 ORtg)  Hart came on strong offensively and on the defensive glass in the second half after a pair of his turnovers gave Xavier a corner three-ball and a follow-up lay-up in transition.  Ignited by his miscues, Hart responded by taking the ball to the hoop with abandon and finishing through contact.  He also drained a three-ball and went nuts grabbing rebounds in traffic.  Not his best game from an efficiency standpoint but this was vintage Josh Hart in terms of his unorthodox ability to finish in traffic.

Kris Jenkins (32 Min, 20 Points, 5-10 FG, 4-8 3PFG, 6-6 FT, 6 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 3 Turnovers, 117 ORtg)  He dropped in some deep threes and contributed on the defensive glass.  Jenkins has been surging of late on the offensive end of the floor - his ORtg took a ding in this game due to his 1/3 A/TO ratio but he scored it well by knocking down his FTs and hitting treys.  Real solid effort from Jenkins throughout the game.

Darryl Reynolds (21 Min, 10 Points, 5-6 FG, 3 Rebounds, 1 Turnover, 1 Steal, 132 ORtg) Reynolds did a good job of moving without the ball to make himself available for the entry pass.  Unlike some past games, Reynolds was very authoritative and decisive on receipt of the ball - other than a low post move with some crafty foot-work, he pretty much scored on dunks and lay-ups.  He has very much improved over the years with his ability to work pick-and-roll and to handle the ball on the wing when required.  Set some solid screens in this game.

Mikal Bridges (22 Min, 5 points, 2-4 FGs, 1-3 3PFG, 5 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Turnovers, 2 Steals, 97 ORtg)  Bridges lost some of his minutes and didn’t start the second half due to foul trouble.  His high-light offensive play was finishing off an alley-oop pass from Donte DiVincenzo with a soaring dunk after darting down the baseline.  That was his only two-point bucket - and he paired it with a wing three-ball to tally his five points.  He has performed well working off pick-and-roll but doesn’t get many opportunities to do so.  Perhaps a small handful more possessions are needed for Bridges to keep him in the mix a bit more and utilize his skills.

Jalen Brunson (29 Min, 11 Points, 4-7 FGs, 0-1 3PFG, 3-3 FTs, 1 Rebound, 6 Assists, 0 Turnovers, 1 Steal, 151 ORtg)  Another very strong game for Brunson.  Elite decision-making.  He made a couple of pin-point, thread-the-needle passes that create wide-open looks for his teammates - easy lay-ups.  Brunson had several strong drives to the hoop including a key “and one” drive late in the first half.  6 assists and 0 turnovers - that is quality stuff.

Eric Paschall (27 Min, 3 Points, 2 Rebounds, 1-2 FGs, 0-1 3PFGs, 1-2 FTs, 2 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 0 Turnover, 1 Block, 1 Steal, 123 ORtg)  This was one of the better all-around performances for Paschall - even though he didn’t rack up huge numbers.  He played within himself and didn’t force things.  His defense was the best it has been all season.

Donte DiVincenzo (32 Min, 10 Points, 4-6 FG, 1-3 3PFG, 1-1 FTs, 4 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 2 Turnovers, 1 Steal, 119 ORtg)  DiVincenzo is starting to string together some more productive outings - and he is doing it against quality competition.  At this point he has played about two-thirds of a season in total and is starting to look less like a freshman.  He is picking better spots to dribble-drive the ball and limiting his deep jumpers to the most open opportunities.  His defense continues to move in a positive direction as well.  He and Paschall went for 60 bench minutes total - the Cats could use a lot more of that down the stretch to help keep everyone in the 7-man rotation as fresh as possible.

Villanova plays St. John’s on Saturday at Noon at MSG.

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