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No. 6 Villanova started slow Saturday on the road at Xavier where more than a few ranked teams have struggled in recent years.
But guard Ryan Arcidiacono scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half and Villanova won the Big East regular season title while bolstering its case for a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a 78-66 victory over the Musketeers.
The Wildcats trailed by seven at halftime and allowed Xavier to shoot nearly 60 percent in the first 20 minutes. The Musketeers sank seven 3-pointers in the half hoping to notch their best win of the season and give the selection committee something to consider when doling out at-large berths, but they couldn’t pull off the upset.
It’s not that Xavier is lacking quality wins. It had four victories over ranked opponents entering the game, but a victory over the Wildcats would have been impressive.
Credit goes to Villanova returning to form on the defensive end in the second half and Arcidiacono making timely shots. Dylan Ennis led Villanova with 16 points and made four of his nine 3-point attempts and Kris Jenkins came off the bench with 14 points, including four more threes.
Forward Jayvaughn Pinkston scored just four points and grabbed only three rebounds less than 24 hours after a report that he had violated the terms of his probabtion from a 2010 assault case
The Wildcats earned their 27th win with just two losses, both of which came in Big East games. They also won their eighth road game of the season and won by a double-digit margin for the fourth straight game.
As long as the Wildcats don’t slip up in their final two conference games at Creighton and at home against surging St. John’s and then go deep in the Big East tournament, it will be difficult to keep them out of one of the top seeds next month.
Xavier is now sliding toward the bubble at 18-12 and 8-9 in conference play after missing a chance to secure a first-round bye in the Big East tournament. Unless the Musketeers can find a way to win their final two regular season games and the conference tournament, they will have at least 13 losses on their resume when the selection committee looks their way.
That certainly isn’t a disqualification, but things would look a bit better had Xavier pulled off the upset on senior day.
Myles Davis did provide this memorable highlight in the first half when things were going the Musketeers’ way.
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