Matt Slocum/Associated Press
The No. 1 Villanova Wildcats reaffirmed their status as the class of the Big East on Wednesday as they steamrolled the 10th-ranked Xavier Musketeers 89-65 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Villanova improved to 15-1 overall and 3-1 in conference play with the win. The Wildcats have now won two straight since getting upset by the Butler Bulldogs on Dec. 30.
Xavier, meanwhile, dropped to 15-3 (3-2 in the Big East) with the loss and have lost two in a row following an 81-72 defeat at the hands of Providence on Jan. 6.
The Wildcats’ rout was spearheaded by balanced scoring, which has been the name of the game all season long.
Villanova entered Wednesday with five players averaging double figures—and that number could generously be nudged to six if you include Eric Paschall, who was dropping 9.9 points per game prior to tipoff.
True to form, the Wildcats rode the efforts of multiple scorers to big results against KenPom.com‘s 63rd-ranked defense in terms of adjusted efficiency.
National Player of the Year candidate Jalen Brunson dropped 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and he broke down Xavier defenders using his full package of offensive moves.
Specifically, that meant Brunson took Musketeers guards off the dribble, nailed a couple of catch-and-shoot opportunities from beyond the arc and deployed some of his crafty post moves, as NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster observed:
Rob Dauster @RobDauster
Villanova’s ability to invert their offense with Jalen Brunson in the post makes them that much more difficult to guard. Your PG posting up with a 4 and a 5 that can make threes around him? Good luck guarding that.
Phil Booth added a career-high 21 points (8-of-11 shooting) and was one of three Wildcats distributors who racked up at least four assists. His most memorable dime came midway through the first half, when he found a streaking Paschall for a big slam in transition:
THE ROOF JUST CAME OFF @WELLSFARGOCTR! Courtesy of @NovaMBB’s Eric Paschall! #NovaNation https://t.co/Jn2hiEBaU1
Speaking of passing prowess, Villanova finished the evening with 18 assists compared to eight turnovers—totals that proved significant considering Xavier managed 13 dimes and 15 giveaways.
Xavier would have needed big efforts from heavy lifters Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura to make those mistakes moot, but they never materialized.
Bluiett, who has shot below 43 percent in every game since Dec. 9, stayed in a funk and managed 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, including 2-of-7 from three.
Macura’s outing was also defined by inefficiencies as he sputtered his way to five points on 2-of-9 shooting against Villanova’s bevy of swarming wings.
With their two-game road trip wrapped, the Musketeers will try to get back on track Saturday when they host the Creighton Bluejays.
The Wildcats, though, will have a third straight win in their sights when they continue conference play Saturday versus St. John’s.