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Villanova’s long-range efforts thwart Xavier

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VILLANOVA, Pa. — With No. 5 Villanova bombing 3-pointer after 3-pointer early on, Xavier coach Chris Mack could only sit and watch.

“I’d like them to miss,” he said of his thought process at the time. “You just tip your hat.”

Villanova used its best long-distance shooting effort of the season to jump out to a big lead on Xavier, then held on for a 88-75 Big East victory Wednesday at the Pavilion.

“Not to put any type of pressure that already isn’t probably on those guys, but that’s a Final Four-quality team,” Mack said. “They’re loaded at every position, they’re experienced at every position, they’re selfless.”

The Wildcats surpassed their previous season high of 13 treys in a game, finishing 15-for-34 (44.1 percent) from beyond the arc.

Villanova junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono, the Big East leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, finished with a team-high 18 points and six assists against just one turnover, continuing a strong stretch of games after a wrist injury limited his effectiveness early in the season.

His performance was indicative of a team that shares the ball with the best in the country. Of Villanova’s 28 buckets, 24 of them came off assists. The Wildcats committed just five turnovers.

“We had great ball movement, guys really made the extra pass,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “That’s why you make shots, you’re not just getting the shot, you’re getting the best shot, and that’s the number that really proves that.”

The Wildcats (16-1, 4-1 Big East) cooled off from long range in the second half, and the Musketeers took advantage, cutting what was a 23-point Villanova advantage down to 10 with five minutes to play.

However, a three-point play from Wildcats senior guard Darrun Hilliard was followed by a long-range shot by guard Josh Hart — Villanova’s final 3-pointer of the evening — restoring the advantage to 18.

As has been the case all season, Wright got a balanced scoring effort from his top eight players, with everybody in the rotation chipping in at least one bucket and six players hitting a 3-pointer to help the team to its third consecutive win.

“I think we just stick to what we do,” junior guard Dylan Ennis said. “We have great shooters, it’s just about the kinds of shots we take. We were real patient today getting open looks, and it starts from us swinging the ball.”

Four players joined Arcidiacono in double figures, with Ennis going for 17 points due largely to five 3-pointers. Hart had 15, senior forward JayVaughn Pinkston added 12, and Hilliard scored 10 to go along with six assists.

While Villanova got its offense from the perimeter, Xavier dominated inside, led by senior forward Matt Stainbrook. The 6-foot-11 big man had 17 points to lead the Musketeers, who outscored Villanova 46-16 in the paint.

Guard J.P. Macura and forward Jalen Reynolds scored 14 points apiece for Xavier (11-6, 2-3), and guard Myles Davis added 12. Macura, a freshman, was starting for the first time in his collegiate career.

“We’re going to play the five hardest-playing guys,” Mack said. “We didn’t have the lineup that works best for us offensively, but that’s taking away from Villanova.”

Villanova got off to a hot start, knocking down three 3-pointers in the first 3:19 and forcing Mack to burn a timeout with the Musketeers down 11-2.

The treys didn’t stop falling for the Wildcats, who entered the game averaging 7.5 made 3-pointers per game but buried nine in the first half. Good ball movement led to the open shots, as Villanova recorded 14 assists on 16 baskets in the first half.

Villanova led 45-27 at the break.

NOTES: Villanova owns a 23-game winning streak at its on-campus Pavilion, where the game was played. The Wildcats also have a 17-game winning streak across all home venues, which includes Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center as well as the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa. … Through the first four games of the conference season, Xavier had four players averaging in double figures, led by senior G Dee Davis (11.5 ppg). … Villanova got off to a similarly hot start in last year’s matchup in Philadelphia, going up 9-0 en route to a 81-58 win. The Wildcats also won 77-70 at Xavier.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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