Newswire photo by Desmond Fischer | Graduate transfer forward Zach Hankins continued his strong play in the frontcourt against Villanova. He put together a robust performance with 12 points and four rebounds, shooting 75 percent in 14 minutes.
Last Friday night in Philadelphia, the men’s basketball team took the court against defending National Champions, the Villanova Wildcats. This Big East tilt between Xavier and Villanova has been one marquee matchups since Xavier joined the realigned Big East in 2013, and this matchup was no different. In a gritty battle, Xavier came up short in the end by a score of 75-85. Here are some of the main takeaways from the matchup.
Villanova still holds the throne in the Big East
Despite Xavier winning the Big East regular season title, they still have not got over the Villanova hump. The Wildcats won both the Big East Tournament and National Championship last season, continuing to show their dominance over the conference. Even with a slow start to this year’s season, Villanova remains the only undefeated team in conference play. Jay Wright’s squad is playing their best basketball right now, and it showed on Friday night.
Xavier’s “double big” scheme works
Prior to the Georgetown game a couple weeks ago, Xavier adopted the double big scheme to go up against the Hoyas own double big. Since then, the Musketeers have used it ever since. The deadly combination of Zach Hankins and Tyrique Jones down low creates huge disruptions, allowing for shooters like Paul Scruggs to get open. Hankins defense and shot making, combined with Jones strength and creativity, makes them wildly successful when on the court together. If the two can stay out of foul trouble, continue to look for this duo more and more down the stretch.
Shooting confidence is building
Multiple times on Friday night, Xavier found themselves in the midst of a prolific shooting performance from Villanova. Even with run after run from the Wildcats, the Musketeers stayed calm and collected. Big shots from players like Ryan Welage and Naji Marshall kept Xavier in the game all night, with at one point being only down by a point with less than 12 minutes to go in the game. This resiliency is tied back to the new confidence this team has found when shooting the three-ball. This team is very close to breaking the scoring difficulties from deep, and the Villanova game was another step in the right direction.
Do not sleep on this team in crunch time
The last three games for Xavier have all been exciting and close matchups, which was something rarely seen at the start of the season. Since entering Big East play, Xavier has been in every single game down the stretch besides one. After a few tough losses in the final minutes, along with a few great wins, this team is built for close games. With the experience they have been building week after week, Xavier has finally found their identity. Consistency and toughness will define this squad in the final months of play. If Xavier wants to run the table in the Big East, the time for action is now.
Xavier returns to action Wednesday night in the Cintas Center, going up against Providence.
By: Colin Cooper | Staff Writer