Xavier had an opportunity to capture a quality win Saturday afternoon against conference powerhouse Villanova.
However, Xavier’s offense stagnated in a 64-55 loss to a physical Wildcats squad at Cintas Center.
“They were the more aggressive, more physical team today,” head coach Travis Steele said. “I thought we defended Villanova pretty well. They are obviously a prolific offensive team … I thought the game for us, at least, was lost on the offensive end.”
After a slow scoring start to the game, the Musketeers somewhat found their rhythm by the end of the first half. But it wasn’t enough as Xavier shot an overall 36% from the floor.
The offensive struggles stemmed from a medley of missed shots close to the basket.
“We gotta be able to finish around the rim a little better,” Steele said. “I thought we left a few points out there early on in the game. I think it really could have changed the whole game if we finished a little better around the rim.”
The players have confidence that the shooting struggles can be corrected with the right mindset.
“I know we believe in every shot that we take,” senior forward Tyrique Jones said. “We believe in each other and we know we can make those shots that we take, even if today they weren’t falling. We have to do (our) job on the defensive end.”
Jones has been stellar of late, but the Wildcats made it difficult for him to get good looks in the paint early on.
Jones headed to the bench after picking up two personal fouls and was held scoreless in the first half. He, however, notched a double-double by the game’s end.
“Usually he’ll get you one way or another – he’s either quicker or he’s stronger,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said about Jones, who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Wright praised Xavier saying the Musketeers are an NCAA Tournament-caliber team.
Just as the Musketeers began to mount a comeback, it was halted on the defensive end as the shots started to fall for Villanova.
“I think there were periods of time where we just couldn’t get a stop,” junior forward Naji Marshall said. “Against Villanova, they are such a good team and the margin of error is so small. They can just take the momentum away with one 3-pointer.”
Down by double-digits with less than three minutes remaining, the Musketeers employed a press to put the pressure on Villanova. However, the Wildcats broke through it to put the game away.
Senior guard Quentin Goodin, who entered off the bench, surpassed the 1,000 career point mark with a layup late in the first half.