Muskies Suffer Tough Loss in Philadelphia
By Brandon Eckman, 1/10/2018

The Xavier Menís basketball team suffered their second straight loss on Wednesday night as the Number 1 ranked Wildcats of Villanova University defeated the 10th ranked Muskies 89-65 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kerem Kanter led in scoring for the Musketeers as he followed up an XU career best 24 points against Providence with a 16-point performance against the Wildcats. The Musketeers are now 15-3 (3-2 in Big East) while Villanova improves to 15-1 (3-1 in Big East).

Villanova got off to a quick start, knocking down back to back three pointers to start off the contest while jumping to an early 6-0 lead. Tyrique Jones established his presence inside early, scoring the first bucket for the Muskies. He would score 3 more points during the game, as he finished with only 5 points and 2 rebounds. The first half was fast paced and high-energy as both teams traded made-baskets following Villanovaís fast start.

The Musketeers rebounded well in the first half but struggled to make shots. This struggle continued for the remainder of the contest, as Xavier went 24-58 on field goal attempts (41%) and 3-17 on three-point attempts (17.6%). Xavier was able to cut the Villanova lead to 6 points with 6:00 left in the first half, but this would be the closest the Muskies would come to victory. Xavier struggled to execute on offense and take advantage of opportunities resulting from Wildcat missed shots and turnovers.

Villanova displayed consistent energy and shooting throughout the contest, going 32-58 on field goal attempts (55%) and shooting 12-31 from beyond the arc (38.7%). Phil Booth led in scoring for the No. 1 Wildcats with 21 points. He also grabbed 2 rebounds and had 4 assists. Jalen Brunson played well for Villanova as well, scoring 17 points while dishing out 5 assists and 2 rebounds. Villanova had 10 steals and 8 turnovers, while the Muskies had only 5 steals gave up the ball 15 times.

Xavier closed out the contest in a 1-3-1 trapping zone defense which worked to the advantage of the Wildcats. Villanova moved the ball well, opening up three-point shots for their streaky shooters while increasing the Wildcat lead and quickly pulling away from Xavier.

Leading the way for Xavier was Kerem Kanter with 16 points and 5 rebounds. Freshman forward Naji Marshall also had an impressive performance. Marshall had 13 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists while giving a much-needed spark to the Musketeer offense. Senior guards Trevon Bluiett (11 points) and J.P. Macura (5 points) were quiet throughout the game as they both struggled to make shots and find a groove in the tough road environment. The NBA range three-point line also appeared to affect Musketeer shot selection, as guards chose to take a deeper and lower-percentage shot, contributing to their atypical struggle in shooting the ball.

Xavier will look to get back to their winning ways on Saturday, January 13th at Cintas Center as they take on the 25th ranked Creighton Bluejays. Tipoff is set for 2:00pm.

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