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WILDCATS SURGE PAST NO. 4 XAVIER 95-79

(DiVincenzo, Villanova)

 

 

CINCINNATI, Ohio – A complete effort at both ends of the floor helped lift No. 3/2 Villanova past Xavier 95-79 here Saturday. The Wildcats (24-4 overall, 11-3) extended their streak of not having suffered consecutive losses to 173 games (2012-13 season).

Xavier saw its nine game winning streak halted. It fell to 24-4 overall, 12-3 BIG EAST.

Mikal Bridges led Villanova with 25 points while Donte DiVincenzo (Salesianum) contributed 21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists – the latter two categories both career highs.

“We came out trying to defend our best,” stated Bridges. “We hadn’t been playing that well, teams had been scoring at will against us. We played Villanova basketball – stuck together as a team when they made a run in the second half.”

J.P. Macura opened the scoring with a 3-pointer for Xavier but Villanova answered promptly as Donte DiVincenzo connected on a 3-ball from the right side. In fact, the Wildcats sank a trio of 3-pointers in the game’s first five minutes, the last by freshman Collin Gillespie, to claim an 11-8 advantage at the first official timeout of the afternoon.

Crisp passing and sharp shooting helped Villanova expand its lead over the course of the period. Sixteen points from Bridges helped the Wildcats craft a 36-25 advantage. Even after Bridges was whistled for his second foul with 5:13 to play in the period and went to the bench, Villanova’s offense kept humming with Eric Paschall and Donte DiVincenzo carrying the baton.

With just under two minutes to play in the period, Villanova had itself a 51-32 lead. Xavier scored the last five points of the period to shave the margin to 51-37 at halftime.

The Wildcats’ 51 points were achieved without a single free throw attempt. In addition to Bridges, DiVicenzo added 11 points while Paschall chipped in with four. Jalen Brunson, Paschall and DiVincenzo each registered four assists each in the period.

The Musketeers carried that momentum into the half, outscoring Villanova 22-11 over the first 7:35 of the half to bring the capacity crowd of 10,777 back into it. The count was 62-59. Xavier was 9-of-15 from the field (.600) in this stretch while the Wildcats cooled off from long range, missing all five of their attempts from beyond the arc.

But DiVincenzo helped make sure there would be no epic comeback story written on this day. He zipped in eight quick points to help the Wildcats separate. Meanwhile, Villanova began to slow the Musketeers’ potent attack. It ended the contest on a 33-20 run to lock up the win.

“When people bring up that streak (173), I’m impressed,” stated Wright. “But it’s not something we ever talk about. If we had lost today, it wouldn’t have changed how we approached things. We would have gone back to work.”

Villanova is in the midst of a five game stretch where it will be on the road four times. The only home date in that run comes Wednesday, when the Wildcats host DePaul at the Wells Fargo Center (8:30 p.m./610 Sports Radio). Prior to the game, VU will celebrate “Senior Night” by honoring Denny GraceMatt Kennedy and Tom Leibig in a ceremony.

The Wildcats’ final home game – which was just announced as a 5 p.m. start time on March 3 – falls during Villanova’s spring break. Therefore “Senior Night” will be held on Feb. 21 so that senior students may participate in the festivities.

The 2017-18 Villanova Men’s Basketball season is presented by KeyBank.


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