No. 5 Xavier takes down No. 1 Villanova

By Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 25, 2016 at 1:35 AM
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CINCINNATI -- There was no court-storming on Wednesday night at Cintas Center following fifth-ranked Xavier's win over No. 1-ranked Villanova.

And while the public address announcer encouraged fans to remain in their seats, there was a sense that the Musketeers' goals are bigger than beating the Wildcats.

"I think it'd be odd for (fans of) the No. 5 team in the country to storm the court," said Xavier coach Chris Mack. "It's not like we're 14-14. It's not the first time (Xavier) has beaten a No. 1 team."

But, it had been a while.

Guards Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura each scored 19 points lifting Xavier to a 90-83 victory, its first win over a No. 1-ranked opponent in 17 years and its first win over Villanova since the two teams became members of the new Big East Conference.

"I've been here for every loss we've had against 'Nova," said guard Myles Davis, who scored 16 points. "Of course that takes a toll on you."

Perhaps most importantly for them, the Musketeers (25-3, 13-3 Big East) kept hopes alive for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"I still think we can get better," Davis said. "We just go out there and play hard, whether it's the No. 1 team in the country, whatever team it is."

Forward Kris Jenkins led Villanova (24-4, 13-2 Big East) with 22 points before fouling out with 8:47 left. Guard Josh Hart added 13 points for the Wildcats.

Both teams expected a different type game than the 31-point Villanova victory on New Year's Eve in Philadelphia.

In that game, Sumner was carted off on a stretcher after suffering a head injury two minutes in and the Musketeers never regained focus while' Nova shot 53 percent from 3-point range in the 95-64 victory.

On Wednesday, Xavier was the better team throughout.

And, Sumner was a big part of the Musketeers' efficiency with a career-high nine assists.

"Not taking anything away from Villanova's effort in game one, they were the better team," Mack said. "It was a weird game with where our minds were after Edmond went down. He just presents such a challenge for the other team."

The Musketeers led by three at the break before foul trouble hit the Wildcats in the second half.

Jenkins picked up his fourth foul with 18:09 remaining and Xavier up 45-41. Less than four minutes later, he was gone.

"It helped that the best player on the floor, at least in terms of production went out early," Mack said.

Villanova had difficulty defending the Muskies without fouling. Three Wildcats fouled out, including Hart.

"We didn't defend well," said 'Nova coach Jay Wright. "Just the little things that add up during the game and end up costing you. Sumner is a huge difference maker for them."

Sumner's drive and layup put the Musketeers ahead 59-50 with 14 minutes left, matching its largest lead.

"I felt like I let my team down the first game because I couldn't be out there," said Sumner who missed three games with the concussion. "I just used my ability to get in the lane and find open teammates."

A dunk by forward James Farr off an assist from Sumner put Xavier ahead 79-65 with 3:39 left and the record crowd of 10,727 could taste victory.

But, the Musketeers had gained control long before that.

Xavier's defense limited guard Ryan Arcidiacono, the Wildcats' second-leading scorer to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.

In contrast to the December meeting, Xavier needed to get off to a positive start on Wednesday. And, it did.

The Musketeers began the game 5 of 8 shooting.

Davis put Xavier ahead 9-7 the lead with a 3-pointer from the corner off an assist from Sumner. He had eight points in the first half to lead the Musketeers.

"They made the big shots and defended very well," Hart said.

Villanova's patented ball fakes helped them get a couple easy layups during a 7-0 run to go ahead 19-13.

Jenkins hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the first eight minutes. He finished the half with 19 points before his early exit.

Macura went on a personal 7-0 run including two straight 3s to ignite the crowd and put the Musketeers ahead 26-24.

"He played fearless," said Mack. "He's never afraid of the big moment ... sometimes he should be."

Xavier seemed intent on not letting Arcidiacono beat them this time around. After scoring a season-high 27 points in the first matchup, the senior guard went scoreless for the first 18 minutes Wednesday.

Villanova got no closer than seven points down the stretch.

"It was going to take a monumental effort for 40 minutes and that's what we got," said Mack. "Years from now, the guys in that locker room will remember this win. But I think we've got bigger fish to fry. If we continue to get better, sky's the limit."

NOTES: Xavier hosted the No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll for the first time since 1999-2000, the season before Cintas Center opened. ... It's the first time in the reconfigured Big East Conference that two teams ranked in the AP top five have met. ... Xavier is 4-13 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams including wins over Cincinnati (1996, 1999) and Saint Joseph's (2004). ... Villanova has been ranked No. 1 for three straight weeks after never holding the top ranking previously. ... The Wildcats had won six straight meetings against XU by an average of more than 17 points. ... Xavier improved to 6-1 this season against top 25 opponents.

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