PHILADELPHIA – In the lone league game on Friday night, Villanova established an eight-point lead by halftime, then held off Xavier in the second half to post an 85-75 victory at Wells Fargo Center and improve to 5-0 in BIG EAST play. The Musketeers are 3-3.
The Wildcats, who own a six-game winning streak, employed a strong perimeter game with 15 3-pointers made to only six for Xavier. Phil Booth led Villanova with 22 points and Collin Gillespie added 18 points. Gillespie was 6-of-10 from beyond the arc and Booth was 5-of-9. Xavier had most of its success inside. Tyrique Jones scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Today’s BIG EAST schedule shows two games.
St. John’s will meet Butler at a sold-out Hinkle Fieldhouse at 4:30 p.m. on FOX. The Johnnies (15-3, 3-3) are off to their best start since 1998-99. All five starters are averaging at least 11.2 points per game led by Sharmorie Ponds who ranks third in the BIG EAST in scoring at 20.6, first in assists (5.9) and first in steals (2.6). Butler (11-7, 2-3) is coming off an 87-69 road win at DePaul. In their last two games the Bulldogs have compiled a 56-6 edge in bench points.
Seton Hall hosts DePaul at Prudential Center at 8 p.m. on FS1. The two teams met on Jan. 6 with the Blue Demons edging the Pirates 75-74, which ended a six-game winning streak for Seton Hall in the series. At 12-6 overall, Seton Hall is 3-3 in BIG EAST play after Tuesday’s 72-63 defeat at Providence. The Blue Demons lost 87-69 to Butler on Wednesday. The Hall’s Myles Powell is second in the league in scoring with a 22.1 average. DePaul’s Max Strus is sixth at 18.0.
Conference play continues to be very competitive. After 26 of 90 BIG EAST contests, 13 have been decided by six points or less.