After a packed few days for the Villanova Wildcats, their weekend at Mohegan Sun’s “Bubbleville” ended in a disappointing defeat at the hands of the Virginia Tech Hokies 81-73 in overtime. Senior guard Collin Gillespie led the team with 25 points and 4 assists, while junior guard Caleb Daniels added 17 points. Sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl also went for 14 and had 9 rebounds. Sophomore guard Justin Moore and junior forward Cole Swider had 7 and 8 points respectively, while senior forward Jermaine Samuels had 6 rebounds.
On Thursday, Villanova took home the 2k Empire Classic Championship with a win over Arizona State. Although their next game was not scheduled until Monday, the Wildcats surprised us with an impromptu game versus Virginia Tech on Saturday. While this meant the team would have only a brief rest, Villanova Coach Jay Wright told reporters that he did ask Gillespie and the team about the decision and everyone was on board with the quick schedule change.
“We knew we were going to be going against a well-coached team, and we had to be ready” Wright said. He did say they were able to watch footage of Virginia Tech’s last game against Radford, which is “all you need.”
The game started slow for the Wildcats as they found themselves in an early deficit. Thanks to an amazing first half from Gillespie where he scored 18 points, Villanova was able to close the gap and go into halftime tied at 29. When the Wildcats came out of the half, they started to finally break away and gained a nine point lead with nine minutes to go. Yet the ‘Cats were unable to hold onto this lead and the Hokies started coming back, as Villanova missed multiple shots from beyond the arch and from the free throw line.
The final thirty seconds of regulation made this game a thriller. Samuels missed a free throw that would’ve put the Wildcats up by 4. Virginia Tech came down the court and missed three consecutive shots, but got the rebound on all three. This caused Moore to foul Virginia Tech’s Cartier Diarra, who made both free throws to make it a one point game. The Hokies fouled Moore on the inbounds play to send him to the line for a 1 and 1. He missed the first one, and Tyrece Radford rebounded it and threw it to Keve Aluma who drove down the court and made a last second bucket for the Hokies while also getting fouled.
“I expected him to miss the free throw, but if he made it, we had a play for the inbound” Coach Wright said.
Aluma accidentally banked it in and Moore was able to take a charge on the inbound that sent him to the line. Moore made both free throws and we were headed to overtime.
Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, their good luck stopped there. The Hokies came out on fire in OT and ended up running away with it to pull off their second top 3 upset in two years.
“They exposed us, and showed where we needed to work on for the future” Wright said after the game. When asked whether fatigue had anything to do with it he responded, “I don’t want to take away from what Virginia Tech did, they played a great ball game.”
Villanova will now leave the Mohegan Sun bubble and head home to face the St. Joe's Hawks in the Finneran Pavilion at 2 PM on Wednesday. They will look to bounce back after the harsh loss.