For the first time in 194 days, ‘Nova Nation was able to see their Wildcats on the court.
The men’s basketball program held an open “Blue/White” scrimmage on Thursday night. The event showcased 10 of the 13 players on the roster, including graduate super seniors forward Jermaine Samuels and guard Collin Gillespie. The night’s practice was split up into four 10-minute “games” between the blue team and the white team. Some players switched teams between games, and others stayed with the same color penny for all four games.
In the first game, junior guard Chris Arcidiacono opened up the scoring with a three from the elbow for the white team. That was followed by an emphatic slam by freshman forward Trey Patterson for the blue team that set the tone for the night. The back and forth alerted the audience, composed of students and Villanova faithful, that there was going to be some competitive, fast-paced, fun basketball played at the Finn.
Gillespie, sporting ace bandages and a thick knee brace after last spring’s torn MCL, showed no signs of rust after his season ending injury, and dominated the scrimmage with ease. He knocked down his first shot of the night, a three, for the blue team about three-and-a-half minutes into the first game. Redshirt sophomore forward Eric Dixon also showed off some great post moves for the blue team, using his size to bully his way to the basket.
Redshirt senior guard Caleb Daniels and junior guard Justin Moore traded threes with under two minutes to play in the first matchup, and senior forward Brandon Slater was able to ice the game for the white team with two free throws. White picked up the first game, 18-14. Arcidiacono led the scoring, with seven points.
The second game of the night belonged to Gillespie. After switching to the white team, he picked up point guard duties and immediately found Dixon with a beautiful pass that led Dixon right to the rim for the score. Gillespie then came back down the court and hit a three, then on the ensuing possession hit a fadeaway jumper.
He continued to set up teammates, as he found an open Arcidiacono who buried a three. Patterson was able to get the blue team on the board with a three of his own, but the score stood 12-3 to white with 4:30 to go. Dixon and Gillespie continued to dominate, with Gillespie hitting a long two and a three off of the pick-and-roll on back-to-back possessions for the white team. All the while, Dixon put on a rebounding clinic on the other end of the floor. Daniels was able to respond late with a top-of-the-arc three, but it was too little too late for the blue team, as white won game two, 19-10. Gillespie led scorers with 10 points in the 10 minutes of play.
In game three, the blue team opened with a full-court press to pressure Gillespie, who continued to run the offense. The strategy seemed to work, as white’s only two points in the first five minutes of the game came from a Samuels turn-and-shoot near the free-throw line. After a corner three from Daniels, a Patterson lay-in, a Dixon slam and a Moore three-ball from the elbow, blue’s lead stood at eight with 4:18 to go. White was able to respond, as Samuels hit another free-throw line jumper, and both Gillespie and freshman guard Angelo Brizzi knocked down a pair of free throws.
Arguably the most exciting moment of the night came at the very end of game three, when Gillespie hit a deep three at the buzzer that elicited the loudest cheer of the evening from those in attendance. However, it was only to cut the blue lead to three, as blue picked up the win, 20-17.
The fourth game of the night was the closest, as the teams traded buckets and kept things close. There was a collective gasp with around four minutes to play as Gillespie took a spill and took down Brizzi with him, but both were able to pop right back up. Things were tied up at 12 with 25.9 to go.
The blue team inbounded the ball with Gillespie running point. He got a pick from Dixon, was quickly doubled, and fired the ball to Samuels, who threw a sharp pass to senior guard Kevin Voigt. Voigt knocked down a three from the elbow to give blue the lead with about three seconds left, or so it seemed. After a replay review, it was deemed that Voigt still had his hand on the ball when the shot clock ran out, and the points were wiped off the board.
White then had an opportunity to win it on an inbounds pass with three seconds left, but the play was well defended by the blue team, and the game expired still tied at 12. Head Coach Jay Wright decided to give the blue team the same opportunity the white team had, an inbounds from their half of the court with three seconds left.
On the inbounds play, Samuels cut to the middle of the lane, received the pass and put it up and in to give the blue team the lead with 1.3 seconds to go. The white team was able to get the ball all the way down the floor, but was unable to get a good look at a shot to tie, and victory went to the blue team.
Daniels led the scoring on the night with 22, shooting 60% from deep. Slater had 16, and Gillespie finished with 15 points.
The next major event for men’s basketball comes in the form of HoopsMania, which will take place at the Finneran Pavilion at 7 P.M. on Oct. 29. The season opens on Nov. 9 at home, when the Wildcats take on Mount St Mary’s in the first official basketball game with full attendance since Feb. 26, 2020.