Villanova tames Xavier

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Villanova was one of the original charter members of the Big East Conference when it launched in 1979.

The Wildcats claimed their first NCAA men’s basketball title under Head Coach Rollie Massimino in 1985 and added a second banner in 2016 with Jay Wright at the helm.

Villanova, which spent significant time ranked at No. 1 this season and was ranked No. 3 when it entered last Saturday’s showdown with No. 4 Xavier at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.

‘We have great leadership…great leaders in (Jalen) Brunson, (Mikal) Bridges and (Phil) Booth.’—Jay Wright

What transpired was a 95-79 thumping by the Wildcats over the Musketeers.

Since the reconfiguration of the Big East Conference five years ago, Villanova has snatched four regular-season championships and look to make it five.

The Wildcats (24-3 and 11-3 in conference) are a major proponent of the three-point shot which was prominently displayed against the Musketeers (24-4 and 12-3 in conference).

Villanova, which led 51-37 at halftime, made 16 of 34 from beyond the three-point line while Xavier (27 of 58 for 46.6 percent), which had its nine-game winning streak and its 16-game home winning skein broken, converted six of 17.

“We have great leadership,’’ said Wright, who is in his 17th season at Villanova. “Great leaders in (Jalen) Brunson, (Mikal) Bridges and (Phil) Booth. Our first half carried us.’’

Villanova made 11 of 19 from three-point range in the first half and with 5:55 left in the initial frame, the Wildcats, who had dropped two of their last three games, pushed ahead 36-21 after Bridges, a junior swingman who had 16 of his team-best 25 points at the intermission, drilled four three-pointers.

Villanova (36 of 63 for 60.3 percent) powered ahead 26-17 after Bridges (three rebounds) canned a three-pointer with 7:55 on the clock.

“We were selfish both offensively and defensively,’’ said Bridges of the recent poor showing. “We weren’t playing like a team.’’

Villanova, which had beaten Xavier 89-65 in their first meeting when Booth, who is currently injured, but is expected back, scored 21 points, moved ahead 11-8 after freshman point guard Collin Gillespie (10 points) drained a trey with 11:02 left.

When Xavier senior shooting guard J.P. Macura (14 points) scored with 17:07 remaining in the second half, Villanova’s lead was shaved to 59-48.

Brunson, a junior point guard, had 11 points with eight assists and three boards, while sophomore shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo tacked on 21 points with nine caroms and nine assists.

Xavier senior shooting guard Trevon Bluiett tossed in a game-high 26 points with five rebounds.

Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at


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The Sports Department Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at

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