PHILADELPHIA — Villanova did what it had to Sunday, playing a full 40 minutes of basketball to secure a critical 80-54 Big East win over Seton Hall at Wells Fargo Center.
Eric Dixon scored 18 points, Brendan Hausen 17 for the Wildcats, who rolled into the intermission with a 15-point lead and led by double figures the entire second half.
It was a day of healing for the Wildcats (13-11, 6-7), whose NCAA Tournament chances are tenuous and who in their previous start checked out with 18.3 seconds remaining in a road loss to Xavier.
With a timeout in his pocket Wednesday, Wildcats coach Kyle Neptune and his squad were unable to get off a shot in a crushing 56-53 defeat to the Musketeers. That amplified the pre-game booing of Neptune during introductions for a third straight home date.
Healing, however, was not the word Neptune wanted to use on a day in which the Wildcats wasted no time putting points on the board against a frustrated squad of Pirates (15-9, 8-5), who also need victories to get into the show.
“I mean, we just don’t look at it like that,” Neptune said. “We look at it as, it doesn’t matter, the results. If we had won that game with an off-the-backboard three or whatever, we would have still said ‘hey, we’ve got to come back and get better the next day.’ So, that’s our goal. We’ve got to go back to practice, get better and try to be the best team we can by the end of the season.”
The Wildcats led by 24 when Hausen nailed his fifth 3-pointer with 6:45 left. The sophomore made 6 of 9 shots from the floor, including 5 of 8 beyond the arc. The Wildcats are 9-4 when Hausen makes multiple threes this season.
“My teammates did a really good job of finding me,” Hausen said. “Obviously, it’s nice to see the ball going in. It’s nice to get some open looks, for sure.”
Dixon showed further refinement in a low-post game that includes a left-handed hook shot.
“I was just happy to come in and take what the defense gives me,” said Dixon, who grabbed five rebounds. “Today I had a huge part in it.”
The triumph adds to the NCAA tournament resume of Villanova, which includes marquee wins over nationally ranked North Carolina, Texas Tech and Creighton. Seven games remain, including dates with top-ranked UConn and Creighton. Four are on the road, but Villanova has one more against Seton Hall and two against a sub-.500 Georgetown before the Big East tournament. The season resumes Friday when the Cats play at Georgetown. Neptune is 3-0 against both Seton Hall and Georgetown.
The Wildcats shot almost 58 percent from the floor to grab a 39-24 lead at the intermission. They made seven threes, two by Hausen, and in the last five minutes of the half created open looks at the basket moving the ball efficiently.
The Wildcats outrebounded the Pirates and racked up more possessions playing tough defense, as they came up with 11 steals on the day, five by Tyler Burton. Al-Amir Dawes, who led the Pirates with 14 points, committed two of their 15 turnovers.
“I thought that was one of the best defensive efforts we’ve had all year,” Neptune said. “When we defend and rebound like that, I think we’ve got a chance against anybody. I think it was just our effort and how hard we played. We were very intense.”
The Wildcats were much more fluid running what Neptune called a “read and react” offense. Hausen has shown he’s more than a catch-and-shoot guy, as he’s changed his launching pad after a pretty good fake near the arc. Opponents don’t appreciate being backed down by the 6-8 Dixon, the product of Abington, who uses every ounce of his 255 pounds to get to the rim.
“We’ve got guys who can make shots,” Neptune said. “So, I’m not surprised when we make shots. When you make shots and defend like that, you definitely give yourself a chance.”
That’s all the Wildcats want right now, is a chance.
Source: Berkshire mont