CINCINNATI -- Villanova coach Jay Wright wasn't aware his team had been awarded the No. 1 overall seed in the initial NCAA Tournament committee rankings released Saturday, a couple hours before the Wildcats took a significant step toward earning that coveted top seed with a hard-fought win at Xavier.
"It's really about where you are at the end," Wright said. "We still have to finish the season."
Second-ranked Villanova finished strong on Saturday, with Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo each scoring 17 points to help the Wildcats win their fifth straight, 73-57 over the No. 24 Musketeers before a standing-room only crowd at Cintas Center.
Saturday's game was a war of attrition for both teams.
Villanova (24-2, 11-2 Big East) played without 6-foot-9 senior Darryl Reynolds, its second-leading rebounder, and junior guard Phil Booth, who remains out following knee surgery. But plenty of other players stepped up for Villanova to help Wright earn his 500th career victory.
"It's pretty cool," said Wright of 500. "I don't think too much about that. I just feel blessed to coach at Villanova."
Xavier (18-7, 8-4 Big East) upset top-ranked Villanova at Cintas Center last February, but the injury-depleted Musketeers couldn't repeat that feat on Saturday.
"I thought our kids gave great effort," said Xavier head coach Chris Mack. "That's not always good enough to win, and it wasn't today. But our effort didn't waver."
Musketeers leading scorer and three-time Big East Conference player of the week Trevon Bluiett played just 19 minutes after aggravating an ankle injury. He did not score.
"Trevon not being in there made a difference," Wright said. "That's a great scorer."
The Musketeers already are without dynamic point guard Edmond Sumner, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, and senior guard Myles Davis, who was dismissed from the team last month.
Bluiett's status for Wednesday's game at Providence was uncertain.
"He was playing well and the ankle was getting better," said Mack. "I can't say where he is now. I didn't want to put a guy out there (Saturday) playing on one leg."
Rashid Gaston helped Xavier make the most of a difficult situation with a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds. J.P. Macura added 17 points for the Musketeers.
Xavier took advantage of Reynolds' absence, outrebounding Villanova 42-26.
"We anticipated that," said Wright. "It was something we knew we'd have to overcome."
Villanova has seen substantial growth from Brunson, who spent much of last season in the shadow of Ryan Arcidiacono. Brunson scored 12 points in the first half Saturday to help the Wildcats build a 12-point halftime lead.
Bluiett limped to the locker room with 11:33 remaining in the first half.
Following his exit, Villanova went 3 of 4 from 3-point range. DiVincenzo's 3 put the Wildcats ahead 17-12. Jenkins capped a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer.
Jenkins finished with 12 points, one of five Wildcats in double figures with Josh Hart scoring 11 and Mikal Bridges adding 10.
Bluiett returned more than three minutes later with the Musketeers trailing 20-12.
With Bluiett limping and scoreless in the first half, Villanova built a 31-21 lead on DiVincenzo's second 3-pointer. He scored 10 first-half points.
Xavier dominated the boards in the half but couldn't convert points, going 1 of 6 from the free-throw line and shooting 37 percent.
Villanova led 35-23 at halftime, holding Xavier to its lowest-scoring first half of the season. The Wildcats extended their lead to 42-27 early in the second half on Jenkins' 3-pointer.
The Musketeers fought back with consecutive 3s by Macura and Malcolm Bernard to cut the lead to nine. The Musketeers were within seven on a couple of occasions, but were unable to get closer against the defending national champions.
"Even though Trevon (Bluiett) is a really good player, they were still attacking (without him)," said Brunson. "We were fortunate to get a few stops."
The NCAA Tournament resume remains strong for the Musketeers, but the concern now is that Bluiett's ankle injury will linger.
"We have to find a way to win, period," Bernard said.
-- Villanova senior F Darryl Reynolds, the team's No. 2 rebounder, missed Saturday's game with a rib injury. He had started all 25 games.
-- Wildcats redshirt freshman F Tim Delaney will miss the season following left hip surgery.
-- Xavier had not played a No. 2-ranked team since hosting defending national champion Marquette in 1978.
-- The Musketeers lead the Big East Conference and rank 17th nationally with a plus-7.3 rebounding margin.
-- Villanova leads the all-time series 24-5.