Kris Jenkins hit four threes and scored a team-high 20 points to lead five players in double-figures as No. 3 Villanova made something of a statement with a 79-54 win over No. 15 Xavier.
The Musketeers took a 24-16 lead at one point in the first half, but Villanova responded with a 23-4 run at the end of the first half and the start of the second half to blow the game open. The game was never in doubt in the second half.
Here are four things we can take away from yet another dominant Villanova win in The Pavilion:
1. It’s never going to be easy to win in The Pavilion: If anyone not named Villanova is going to win the Big East this season, they’re probably going to have to win at Villanova, and if there’s anything that we’ve learned over the course of the last three-and-a-half seasons, it’s that winning in Philly is not an easy thing to do when you’re not playing the 76ers.
Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins have lost just seven Big East games in their careers; 14 games in total. Just two of those losses came at home, and both of those home losses came in the Wells Fargo Center – the NBA arena downtown – instead of the The Pavilion – the facility on campus. Villanova has never lost a home game out of conference, either, meaning that there is not a single player on Jay Wright’s roster that has ever lost a game in The Pavilion.
Xavier is a really good team, one that, with Myles Davis back in the lineup, has as much of an argument for being the second-best team in the league as Butler or Creighton.
And they still, for the second consecutive season, got utterly humiliated by Villanova in that building.
2. The Wildcats don’t need Josh Hart to play well to be great: Yes, Hart finished with 20 points, six boards and five assists, but the majority of his damage came after the game was more-or-less decided. I think even he would admit that he put up those numbers despite not playing his best basketball, and that’s a scary thing to think about with this team, because Josh Hart is the current leader in the clubhouse for the National Player of the Year award. On Tuesday night, it was Jenkins that carried the Wildcats early on, as he hit three of his four threes and sparked the run at the end of the first half.
And it was probably nice for Villanova fans to see Jenkins get into a rhythm again. After a somewhat slow start to the season, he’s hit for at least 20 points in three of the last four games and has at least three threes in all five of Villanova’s Big East games.
3. You can’t go small against Villanova: That’s their bread and butter. You don’t want to let them get their death lineup – Brunson, DiVincenzo/Booth, Bridges, Hart and Jenkins – on the floor without having to risk dealing with a big man on the interior. That’s precisely what Xavier did late in the second half, and it cost them. The Musketeers scored just 30 points in the final 28 minutes of the game, and on the night shot just 29.3 percent from the floor. Some of that are just the issues that Xavier has in their roster construction – we’ll get to that in a second – but much of that number is simply a result of Villanova’s effectiveness when they can switch every exchange without have to worry about Jalen Brunson ending up trying to guard a 6-foot-10 center in the post.
4. Xavier cannot fall into the trap of trying to be a three-point shooting team: They just simply don’t have enough good shooters to do it, but that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night in Philly. Xavier was 5-for-10 from three during the stretch when they opened up a 24-16 lead on Villanova. They finished the night going 6-for-32 from beyond the arc, meaning that in the final 28 minutes of the game, they shot 22 three-pointers and made just a single one.
That’s a problem. The return of Myles Davis – who was 0-for-4 in his first game back with the team after a 15-game suspension – should help solve that. His return should also help open up their half court offense as well, as he’s one of the best playmakers and facilitators on the roster. But his presence on the floor doesn’t change the fact that 28 threes were shot by his teammates.
And, quite frankly, if Xavier is going to try to win games that way, it’s not going to be all that effective.