The annual Xavier ass-kicking was in full effect last night, as Villanova outlasted Xavier’s hot start and cruised to an easy 79-54 win. Since the football schools left to chase the ultimate dream in 2013, Villanova is 8-1 against Xavier, arguably the 2nd best Big East team during that stretch. This game was a defensive clinic against Xavier and the defense forced non-shooters to shoot and non-drivers to drive. For the season, Xavier shoots almost 60% at the rim and takes about 43% of their shots at the rim. Yesterday, they shot 47% at the rim and only took 33% of their shots there. The Wildcats also played great defense on Trevon Bluiett, after making 2 of his first 4 shots, he missed his last 6 and forced him to commit 4 turnovers.
Here are 5 takeaways from the game:
- Jay Wright making in game adjustments –Sometimes it’s not easy to make in game adjustments, as you’re trying to stick to your game plan which all the coaches put in a lot of time to create. A coach wants to trust his game plan and the work he and his staff put in. Xavier had a great defensive game plan to start in that they hard hedged our screen and roll to double the ball, and depended on their size, length and athleticism to stop the ball movement. Jay saw this and about 10 minutes in, made the call to pass immediately off the ball after the screen with a hard roll to the hoop. This resulted in many dunks and wide open 3’s. A great job by the coaching staff.
- Defense, defense, defense, man-to-man edition – As I stated above, Jay forced drivers to shoot and shooters to drive. Jalen Brunson had a great defensive possession when he got switched to Sumner. Sumner was at the top of the key and Brunson kept his feet still while Sumner was dancing with the ball, and Brunson was about 2-3 steps away from Sumner. When Sumner looked like he was going to drive, Brunson stayed right with him and with a soft hedge from a Wildcat on the wing, Sumner had nowhere to go. He settled for a step-back 3 and missed. Meanwhile, when Villanova was guarding Malcolm Bernard who has been taking over 50% of his shots from 3 and shooting 40%, while he was shooting only 42% from 2 point land. Villanova got into his grill and forced him to drive. He took 1 three pointer the entire game, and while he only shoots around 5 total shots per game, he’s a weapon from the 3 point line and the fact that he only took 1 shot, while also keeping Sumner out of the lane, was very good D.
- Defense, defense, defense, 2-3 zone edition – Just 4 games ago against DePaul, I wrote that the 2-3 zone just wasn’t effective, as it’d been pretty bad up to that point. However, since then, while I didn’t see the Butler game and listened to the Creighton game on the radio, it’s been a lot better. The top 2 players are moving around faster and the wings are helping and recovering quickly and are being more active when the ball moves into vulnerable spots in the zone. Xavier had a good play where they had two guys screen the top two guys and Sumner split them for a FT jumper, but after they ran that once, Reynolds was ready and stepped up, while the two wing players (Jenkins, Hart) hedged down. Reynolds forced Sumner to pass out to the wing and Jenkins recovered and Xavier missed.
- Donte and Paschall are looking more comfortable – Donte put up another Bridges-lite type Box Score with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. I got a great text from @ltvu who said “the game is slowing down for Donte” and I couldn’t agree more. Since the flip of the calendar year (3 games) he’s averaging 8 points, 3 rebounds, has a 2:1 assist / TO ratio and has a ORtg of 127. Eric had another solid game, especially on the defensive side. Eric still struggles with game to game consistency (but not effort), but similar to the Chef, if Eric can get a basket or two early, it really helps his confidence. While EP’s numbers didn’t pop out last night, he boxes out well to allow others to get the rebound, he didn’t have a turnover, and didn’t force any shots.
- Kenpom Defensive rating – After 1 game, went from 31 to 23 after giving up 0.78 points per possession, by far our best effort of the year for a major conference team (gave up 0.65 PPP to Lafayette, 0.77 PPP to College of Charleston, and 0.83 PPP to both Temple and St Joes (PA)). Also, Villanova has played the 6th, 15th, 17th and 29th offensive teams in the country in Creighton, Butler, Marquette and Xavier, in their past 4 games. Their next 3 games against St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence are all against offensive teams higher than 80, so that number should continue to improve.