Villanova-Xavier: Eric Paschall leads emphatic win with defense and dunk

Villanova’s Eric Paschall rises for an emphatic slam dunk over Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett during the first half of the Wildcats’ 89-65 win at the Wells Fargo Center.

Now that’s how you do defense.

Jay Wright said he hasn’t gone at his younger players while Villanova is struggling to find its chomps on defense.

“Those guys look at you like, “Coach, we’re scoring 100 points and winning. What’s the problem?”

Team leaders like Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth, Eric Paschall and Jalen Brunson do know what defense will do later down the road.

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Jalen Brunson, left, of Villanova beats JP Macura of Xavier to a loose ball during the 2nd half.

Bridges earned his minutes as a defensive contributor to a NCAA champion before exerting himself on offense this season.

On Wednesday, he took the task of locking down Xavier wing Trevon Bluiett with vigor and intent of showing how defense can influence a game.

Bluiett, who averages nearly 20 points, had just five and took three shots in the first 20 minutes when Villanova seized the game.

Not-so-coincidentally, the top-ranked Wildcats had their best overall defensive performance in the 89-65 win over 10th-ranked Xavier.

Villanova held an opponent under 70 points for the first time in four games, and that’s saying something considering the Musketeers had been averaging more than 85 points and had been held under 70 points just once.

Xavier, which shoots 50 percent, was held to 41.4 percent shooting and committed 15 turnovers. Nova had 10 steals. The Wildcats got 18 points off of turnovers.

Blink and miss a spectacular dunk

Villanova can turn a defensive stop into a basket in a heartbeat. The best example of that against Xavier came in the first half when Donte DiVincenzo jumped into a passing lane and tipped a pass.

DiVincenzo quickly recovered the ball and passed to Eric Paschall, who took a dribble and passed across the court to Phil Booth but kept running to toward the basket.

Some quick eye-contact and Booth then sent a lob pass to the hoop, that Paschall slammed home for a vicious alley-oop dunk.

The entire sequence happened faster than you’ll read this description of it.

Dhamir can’t mis

Freshman Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree isn’t just eating minutes to give guys breathers with his increased playing time. The Neumann-Goretti product matched his career-high with 17 minutes against Xavier and has total 32 in the last two games — which is 16 percent of his total minutes for the season.

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, left, of Villanova and Kaiser Gates of Xavier battle for a rebound during the 2nd half.

DCR was three-for-three for six points against Xavier, this after shooting five-for-five for 10 points in the previous game against Marquette.

In fact, Cosby-Roundtree is made the last 13 field goals he’s attempted in the last seven games. He hasn’t missed since going 2-for-3 against La Salle on Nov. 10.

He’s shooting 80.1 percent (25-of-31) on the season and shot perfection in seven games.


Villanova is now 30-1 when holding opponents to 65 points for fewer since the start of the 2016-17 season. … The Wildcats improved to 10-0 when playing a home game as the No.1 team in the Associated Press Poll. … The Cats return to action against St. John’s on Saturday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m., Fox Business Network).