Collin Gillespie scored 24 points, including 16 in the second half to lead the Wildcats past Xavier, 68-62, in the first game of Big East play. Gillespie also added four rebounds and five assists in the victory. Jermaine Samuels contributed 14 points and eight rebounds. Saddiq Bey had six points, six rebounds and three assists along with two blocks on the defensive end. Jeremiah Robinson Earl threw in five points, four rebounds and three assists, while Justin Moore came off the bench and dropped 13.
What started off as a close game quickly took a turn when Villanova went on a 17-0 run early to take a 21-8 lead. Xavier came back and brought it to within seven with a 12-6 run at the end of the half. While neither team made a run in the second half, Villanova was able to hold its lead and never let Xavier get closer than five in the second half. Naji Marshall tried to bring the Musketeers back, scoring 19 points, but Villanova’s ability to hit the three was what propelled them to victory, with Gillespie and Bey each hitting one of their own toward the end of the contest. The ‘Cats were able to hold Xavier to only one three the entire game. Xavier did a good job of guarding the three-point line, but Villanova was able to have a lot of success getting inside, including a few dunks from Bey, Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. Besides Marshall, Villanova was able to play very good defense overall, blocking three shots and causing 14 turnovers.
Villanova now starts 1-0 in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. Every team in the Big East has a winning record, and, with the exception of Providence, every team is currently getting votes in the AP Top 25 Poll.
This was Villanova’s six straight win and last one of the decade, following the team’s upset of No. 1 Kansas. Next up for the ‘Cats is a matchup with Marquette on Jan. 4 as the team will take on Markus Howard and the 10-2 Golden Eagles in the first game of 2020.