Villanova Wildcats

Bridges leads Villanova to massive road win over fellow top-5 team

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Bridges leads Villanova to massive road win over fellow top-5 team

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CINCINNATI — With the Big East's bragging rights at stake, Villanova showed it's not ready to relinquish its reign.

Mikal Bridges led an early 3-point shooting spurt that put Villanova in control, and the third-ranked Wildcats beat No. 4 Xavier 95-79 on Saturday in a showdown for control of the league.

As it has nearly every time, this one went to `Nova.

The Wildcats (24-3, 11-3) have won all four regular-season titles since the league was reconfigured. Xavier (24-4, 12-3) had a chance to take control of the race, but simply wasn't up to the Wildcats' level in the biggest game of the season.

Now, Xavier's lead is down to a half-game and Villanova has swept the head-to-head series.

"I think we wanted to send ourselves a message, not necessarily about the title race but about playing Villanova basketball," said Dante DiVincenzo, who finished with 21 points. "We knew we weren't playing Villanova basketball."

Bridges scored 25 points in a balanced attack that got the best of a matchup between the league's top offenses. Trevon Bluiett had 26 points for Xavier, which had its nine-game winning streak snapped. Villanova made a season-high 16 3-pointers, the most ever by a Xavier opponent.

"They hit a lot of tough 3s, but we've just got to play tougher," said Xavier's Naji Marshall, who had 11 points. "When you play elite teams, there's little margin for error."

The Wildcats ended their three-game shooting slump by making 11 3s in the first half, when they pulled out to a 19-point lead and silenced a raucous crowd at the Cintas Center, where Xavier had been undefeated this season.

"We came out together and played harder than we usually do," Bridges said. "We've got to keep that up. We can't settle. We can't relax."

Bluiett led a second-half surge that cut it to 64-61 with 11 minutes left before Bridges' basket blunted the comeback. Xavier had a pair of turnovers, and DiVincenzo hit back-to-back 3s as the Wildcats rebuilt their lead to double digits and pulled away.

"When they shoot the ball the way they did today, it will take a monumental effort to beat them," Xavier coach Chris Mack said.

In the end, it was like the last four games between the league's heavyweights. Villanova has won 10 of 11 against Xavier in the Big East, the last four by margins of 25, 22, 24 and 16 points. Xavier hadn't lost since an 89-65 defeat at Villanova on Jan. 10.

Big picture
Villanova: The Wildcats rely on their 3-point shooting but had been in a slump the last three games, going 17 of 71 from beyond the arc. They had their worst game of the season during a 76-71 loss at Providence , going 3 of 20. Villanova went 11 of 19 from beyond the arc in the first half on Saturday. After missing their first seven 3-point tries in the second half, they found their mark and pulled away, finishing 16 of 34.

Xavier: The Musketeers came out overly aggressive -- three fouls in the first 26 seconds -- and missed eight of their first 12 shots, including several layups. They've had bad first halves in their last four games against the Wildcats, leading to the double-digit losses.

"We were excited playing `Nova in our gym," Marshall said. "I think we came out a little too excited."

Big win
It was the second-largest win by Villanova against a Top-5 team under coach Jay Wright, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Getting heated
Villanova's Omari Spellman and Xavier's Paul Scruggs got technical fouls for yelling at each other during the Musketeers' comeback in the second half. The two had to be separated.

Big matchup
It was only the second time in the Cintas Center's 18-year history that a pair of Top 5 teams faced off. The other time resulted in Xavier's only win over Villanova in Big East play. The No. 5 Musketeers beat the No. 1 Wildcats 90-83 on Feb. 24, 2016.

Moving up
Bluiett surpassed David West for second place on Xavier's career scoring list with 2,140 points.

Up next
Villanova: Wildcats host DePaul on Wednesday, followed by games at Creighton and Seton Hall before finishing at home against Georgetown.

Xavier: Musketeers play at Georgetown on Wednesday. They beat the Hoyas in overtime 96-91 at the Cintas Center on Feb. 3. They finish at home against Providence -- one of the teams that beat them -- and at DePaul.

No. 17 Villanova falls to No. 1 Kansas in Final Four rematch

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No. 17 Villanova falls to No. 1 Kansas in Final Four rematch

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lagerald Vick had never watched last season's Final Four loss to Villanova before this week, when top-ranked Kansas had to endure every minute of it while prepping for Saturday's game against the Wildcats.

"We watched it for like, a week straight," Vick said. "It was definitely hard."

He'll have better memories of the rematch.

Vick poured in 29 points Saturday, Dedric Lawson added 28 points and 12 rebounds, and both helped the Jayhawks make just enough free throws in the closing minutes to hold off the No. 17 Wildcats 74-71 in a game that was nip-and-tuck almost the entire way.

Devon Dotson added 11 points for the Jayhawks, including four effortless free throws in the final 1:10 to help Kansas (9-0) end a three-game losing streak to Villanova -- the last two in the NCAA Tournament.

"This atmosphere was just awesome," Wildcats coach Jay Wright. "We played a great program, just a great atmosphere -- tough game -- and they just did a great job getting Lagerald Vick in spots where he wanted it, and Dedric Lawson, you know you're not going to shut them out."

Still, the Wildcats (8-4) had chances in the final couple minutes.

Collin Gillespie's three-point play drew them within 69-65 with 31 seconds left, and Vick gave them an opening when he threw the ball away on the ensuing inbounds play. But Vick atoned for the mistake by pulling down a defensive rebound, and then calmly made a pair of free throws at the other end.

Phil Booth's deep, line-drive 3 got Villanova within 71-68, and after Lawson made the second of two foul shots for a 72-68 lead, Booth added another driving layup to trim the deficit to two.

Lawson added two more free throws to restore a 72-68 lead with 7.5 seconds left, and Gillespie was fouled at the other end. He made the first but was forced to miss the second on purpose, and the ball squirted toward the Wildcats' bench, where a scrum ultimately gave Kansas the ball with 0.4 seconds left.

Once the Jayhawks inbounded the ball, they finally had a long-awaited win over the Wildcats.

Even if it came with far less on the line.

"We're still 1-2 against Villanova," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. "We beat them in the Sweet 16. They beat us in the Elite Eight. They beat us in the Final Four. The game today was nice, but it wasn't a real game like the others were real games."

Booth finished with 29 points for the Wildcats. Eric Paschall scored 17 but was rendered ineffective down the stretch because of foul trouble, and Gillespie finished with 15 but was just 1 for 7 from 3-point range.

Kansas has now won 39 straight in Allen Fieldhouse as the nation's top-ranked team.

"They're a very good defensive team," Booth said. "We missed some shots at the end, but they did some great things defensively with their length. They just did a great job."

The Jayhawks led 33-31 at halftime, despite playing most of the way without Dotson and fellow starter Quentin Grimes. Grimes picked up three early fouls and Dotson had two, relegating them to the bench.

Their teammates picked them up with the kind of defensive effort Kansas sorely needed in their lopsided Final Four loss, when Paschall and Co. made just about shot they took. The Jayhawks harried the senior forward into a couple of crucial turnovers while largely shutting down the paint.

Villanova found its offensive stride in the second half.

Then again, so did Kansas.

And what most had envisioned as an up-and-down, back-and-forth showdown between national powers turned into precisely that. There were eight ties and eight lead changes, the majority of them in the opening minutes of the second half, as two of college basketball's blue-bloods went toe-to-toe in the Phog.

"This was a good game that allows you to have a quality win," Self said, "and you play through the experiences that make you better. But Jay would tell you, we're both going to play in bigger games than this."

No Quinerly
Villanova freshman Jahvon Quinerly watched from the bench after an Instagram post earlier in the week criticizing his own program. Wright said Quinerly had apologized and it would be used as a "teaching moment." The five-star recruit has played in only eight games this season.

Celeb sightings
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Hall of Fame Royals third baseman George Brett were in the crowd. So was a handful of former Kansas players, including Nick Collison, who is No. 2 on the school's career scoring list.

Big picture
Villanova played much better than it did in a loss to Penn earlier in the week, putting a scare into the No. 1 team in the country. But the Wildcats were just 3 of 15 from beyond the arc in the second half, and they were dominated on the glass for the second consecutive game.

Kansas has certainly earned its ranking, beating a trio of ranked teams already this season. The one thing the Jayhawks haven't done is win a true road game, and they'll get that opportunity when they head to No. 20 Arizona State next weekend.

Up next
Villanova plays UConn next Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas hosts South Dakota on Tuesday night.

No. 21 Villanova beats Saint Joseph's for 25th straight Big 5 win

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No. 21 Villanova beats Saint Joseph's for 25th straight Big 5 win

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VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Villanova soared to the top of the college basketball world by capturing national championships in two of the last three seasons.

The Wildcats have been kings of their own city for much longer.

Eric Paschall had 14 points and nine rebounds, and No. 21 Villanova beat Saint Joseph's 70-58 on Saturday for its 25th straight Big 5 victory.

Joe Cremo and Phil Booth scored 12 points apiece as the Wildcats (8-2) continued their dominance of the long-standing city series with Philadelphia rivals Saint Joseph's, Penn, La Salle and Temple. Jermaine Samuels added 11 points.

"It's just the intensity of it," Samuels said. "We're getting every team's best shot. They're not giving up. That's the biggest takeaway I've gotten from these Big 5 games."

Lamarr Kimble led Saint Joseph's (5-5) with 22 points. The Hawks played without Charlie Brown after the top scorer in the Atlantic 10 sprained his ankle in a win at Princeton on Wednesday.

Saint Joseph's struggled offensively, shooting 34.5 percent (20 for 58) from the field. The Hawks went 6 for 27 from 3-point range and 12 for 18 from the foul line.

"We've been getting kicked in the (butt) all year with missed layups," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "I think the same thing happened today."

Trailing 62-40 midway through the second half, the Hawks went on a 16-0 run to make things interesting. But a Booth 3-pointer and a Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree three-point play with 1:05 remaining helped seal Villanova's sixth straight win.

"We're starting to get more organized," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I think guys are starting to get more comfortable with each other. But we still have a lot of work to do."

Fresh off come-from-behind Big 5 victories over La Salle and Temple, Villanova began to pull away from Saint Joseph's late in the first half, taking a 38-28 lead into halftime on the strength of four 3-pointers from Cremo and two from Paschall, including one in the final minute.

The Wildcats extended their lead to 48-31 three minutes into the second half after back-to-back buckets from freshman Cole Swider capped a 10-0 run. Swider scored all eight of his points in the second half.

"It's hard as a freshman to come into these games," Wright said. "That's going to be the story of the season - how we can develop our young guys and our new guys."