Musketeers Run Comes Up Just Short at Villanova
(Photo by Trent Grayson/Mr. Kentucky24)
Returning from their holiday break, Xavier made the trip to Philadelphia to face Villanova. A place that has been far too unkind to Xavier in year's past, where until last year the Musketeers were struggling to find a win.
Last night, the result of the game was another loss in Philly but, it feels like this game gave us a promising performance from the Musketeers.
Yes, they lost. Yes they're 1-2 to start Big East play and we've seen these performances from this team through the season against teams like Houston and Purdue but coming off the win vs Seton Hall and the comeback this team made with two chances to get the win on the last shot has the optimism at a decent high right now.
There were multiple occurrences during the game Xavier could have thrown it in, and started mentally getting prepared for UCONN to come to Cintas next week, but this team kept on fighting. They had one of the rare not so stellar shooting games from Quincy Olivari (3/13, 1/8 from three point land) and still almost got the win.
Yeah the box score isn't pretty but maybe this is the start of the consistency the Musketeer fanbase has been looking for through the season. With 15 minutes remaining in the game, Nova's Brendan Hausen hit a three to give the Wildcats the 10 point lead. Olivari hit a big three to respond, Dayvion McKnight followed with a basket of his own cutting the deficit to six points. Xavier looked back alive.
Eric Dixon then hit another deep shot for Villanova but then the fight was on. Desmond Claude hit a nice jumper which was then followed by Hakim Hart nailing a 3 for Nova making it a nine point difference. McKnight hit another big basket from three followed by a coast-to-coast dunk from Dailyn Swain making it 54-50 on the floor.
Over the next few minutes both teams were trading baskets until the final minute of the matchup. With 1:24 left Quincy Olivari knocked down two big free-throws making this a one-point game and calming the Nova crowd. On the next possession Xavier's defense was lock down stopping a laying from Jordan Longino and getting the Musketeers the ball back. With 13 seconds left on the clock, Desmond Claude was able to get an open lane to the rim but got challenged and missed the go-ahead layup leading to Abou Ousmane using his fifth and final foul of the game.
Eric Dixon then made his two free-throws before Dayvion McKnight hit another huge basket with just a few ticks left on the scoreboard. After Kachi Nzeh's foul put Dixon on the line, he somehow missed both free-throws giving Xavier one last chance where Claude drove down the court and missed the final jumper.
Yes that's a bummer of a loss, but this was a promising performance early in the Big East season. Xavier can win many Big East games with this kind of effort, though they do need to get more shots to fall. The Musketeers only had eight turnovers, out rebounded Villanova and also didn't miss a free-throw. Just needed one more basket to fall, so you have to feel pretty good about this team moving forward.
Now with a week off before they welcome the defending National Champion UCONN Huskies, can they continue to build off of the last two games or will we see the continued trend of an up and down season?
We will find out next Wednesday 1/10 at 8:30 PM EST.