Villanova and Xavier spent much of their Big East game Friday night showing a difference in their offensive philosophies. The Wildcats relied on the three-point shot while the Musketeers were more focused on going inside for their points.
In the end, it was the 22nd-ranked Wildcats’ three-point shooting, especially at a key stretch of the second half, that carried the day for them. Phil Booth and Collin Gillespie combined for 11 baskets from beyond the arc and led the Cats to an 85-75 victory over Xavier at Wells Fargo Center to remain undefeated in conference play.
Villanova (14-4, 5-0 Big East) sank 15 baskets from deep in 34 attempts, with Booth going 5-of-9 and Gillespie 6-of-10. But for coach Jay Wright, there were stretches when he felt his team should have shot more of them but didn’t.
“We never really worry about making or missing shots, we worry about taking them,” Wright said. “I still think there were some that Collin passed up. I thought early in the game, Phil was holding the ball and not catching to shoot.
“We want to be aggressive there. They went in tonight so it looks better, but you’ve got to put the pressure on the defense and be ready to shoot. I still think we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
Booth finished with 22 points and five assists while Gillespie added 18 points and four assists. Eric Paschall had 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
The Musketeers, who were led by Tyrique Jones with 21 points and 12 rebounds (nine offensive), made a point of getting the ball inside to Jones and 6-foot-11 Zach Hankins, who scored 12 points but played just 14 minutes. They scored 26 of their 31 first-half points in the paint, and Wright made some adjustments after halftime.
“We put Eric on Jones in the second half,” he said. “He was killing us. I thought Eric did an outstanding job on Jones. There was a difference where he wasn’t getting offensive rebounds and they weren’t getting the ball to him at will when Eric was on him.”
The Wildcats stretched a 39-31 halftime lead to 44-33 early in the second half but saw that advantage shrink to one point, 48-47, when Quentin Goodin hit both ends of a one-and-one with 11 minutes, 39 seconds to play.
The three-ball got them their cushion back. Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and Booth knocked down three-point baskets on consecutive possessions. A layup by Samuels finished off an 8-0 run and gave ‘Nova a 59-50 lead with 8:57 remaining.
Villanova gradually pulled away with the help of another three-ball by Gillespie and Paschall’s conventional three-point play that made it 74-59 with 3:54 to play.
“That’s a very good team Xavier has,” Booth said. “They have good length on the defensive end of the floor. They made everything difficult for us, always being there with a hand in the passing lane.”
After being outrebounded in the first half, Villanova held a 21-14 edge in the second half. The Cats shot an even 50 percent from the floor while Xavier hit at a 43.8 percent clip.
“That certainly wasn’t pretty but you’ve got to give Xavier credit for that,” Wright said. “They are a physical, tough defensive team, rebounding team. You’ve got to be willing to get down in the mud with them and fight and scrap it out. I thought in the second half we really did a much better job defending and rebounding a little bit better.”