No. 9 Villanova vies to halt skid against No. 22 Xavier

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Villanova’s four losses in the team’s first 11 games this season likely isn’t surprising given its rather difficult schedule.

But if the No. 9 Wildcats hope to avoid a third straight loss when they host No. 22 Xavier on Tuesday, their shooting must improve. Shooting woes have been evident in Villanova’s back-to-back losses to No. 1 Baylor and Creighton.

The Wildcats (7-4, 0-1 Big East) shot 22.2 percent from both the floor (12 of 54) and 3-point range (6 of 27) in a 57-36 loss to the Bears on Dec. 12. Villanova hit only 33.3 percent of its attempts from the floor (21 of 63) and 17.4 percent from beyond the arc (4 of 23) in a 79-59 setback to the Bluejays on Friday.

“We only had six turnovers, which is a positive,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said after the loss to Creighton. “But the four assists stands out. We struggled on offense, and when we got open looks from 3, we missed them.”

The Wildcats have lost back-to-back games by at least 20 points for the first time in Wright’s 21 seasons at the school.

“We’re struggling,” he said. “Every guy individually is trying to get us going, and we’re kind of losing our rhythm offensively. We have to learn from this, and we’re going to have to get that back.”

One bright spot in the loss to the Bluejays was the emergence of Eric Dixon, who had a career-high 15 points plus nine rebounds.

Red-hot Xavier (11-1, 1-0) will look for its eighth consecutive win on Tuesday.

In their most recent game Saturday, the Musketeers posted an 80-71 victory over Marquette.

Dwon Odom scored a career-best 19 points to lead four players in double figures. Nate Johnson added 17, Jack Nunge contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Colby Jones had 11 points.

“I kind of figured out in the first half that I could get in the lane and make some plays,” Odom said.

Odom shot 8 of 9 from the floor and added three steals in a tenacious defensive effort.

“If he sees light at all, he’s going to take it,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “He got anywhere that he wanted tonight. He’s so strong and athletic. If you want to play off Dwon, it just helps him.”

Xavier has made plenty of plays in its sizzling start.

Even with Villanova struggling, the task now is to keep the momentum going in a hostile environment.

“We’re 1-0. Got our first Big East win. We’re a little banged up,” Steele said. “But you have to be mentally tough at this time of year.”

The Musketeers did miss 14 free throws but executed well enough down the stretch to extend their winning streak.

“We didn’t get sped up,” Steele said. “We played at our own pace. Landed on two feet, found the open guy. I thought our guys executed really well on both ends of the floor. I thought defensively late we were really good. Offensively, late, we were really good as well.”

–Field Level Media

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