CINCINNATI (AP) — Collin Gillespie scored 21 points, Justin Moore had 16 and No. 14 Villanova held off No. 17 Xavier 64-60 on Wednesday night.
Moore, the reigning Big East player of the week, scored 10 points in the second half and finished with nine rebounds to help the Wildcats (12-4, 5-1 Big East) win their fifth straight. Eric Dixon added 15 points and 10 boards.
It was the second consecutive big game for Gillespie, who had a season-high 28 points Saturday in a victory over DePaul.
Paul Scruggs and Nate Johnson each scored 15 for Xavier (12-3, 2-2), which trailed by 12 with 10 minutes remaining before rallying.
Villanova had a scoring drought of more than six minutes, helping the Musketeers get back in the game. Scruggs hit two key 3-pointers, including one that tied the score at 56 with 2:16 left.
But then Moore made a layup, Brandon Slater sank a couple of free throws and Villanova was back in front by four with a minute to play. Moore sealed it by hitting two foul shots with six seconds left.
The Musketeers missed too many opportunities at the rim, including a layup attempt by Scruggs that would have tied it with 18 seconds to go.
Villanova, responsible for two of the Musketeers’ three losses this season, dominated the first half.
It was an ugly start for both teams, who were a combined 3 for 16 from the field early. But when Villanova began to heat up, Xavier didn’t.
The Musketeers shot 28% in the first half while going 2 for 12 from 3-point range.
Villanova got 14 points from Gillespie and 12 from Dixon to build a 38-27 halftime lead. The Wildcats outscored Xavier 24-15 in the paint and had 12 second-chance points in the first half.
Xavier was down 10 with a little more than 14 minutes left before Johnson’s 3-pointer woke up the sellout crowd. But the Wildcats answered every Musketeers run and finished 20 for 21 at the free throw line.
Xavier shot 32.7% from the field, and forward Zach Freemantle was limited to three points on 1-for-6 shooting.
Villanova: Defense has been the calling card for the Wildcats under coach Jay Wright, and this season is no different. Villanova allowed 56.7 points in its first 11 wins coming into Wednesday’s game. Opponents had averaged 75.5 points in the Wildcats’ four losses.
Xavier: Despite the program’s success, the Musketeers have managed to beat Villanova only twice in 18 meetings since the Big East was reformed for the 2013-14 season. Both victories came at home. Villanova has won the past five meetings and leads the overall series 32-6.
Villanova hosts Butler on Sunday.
Xavier hosts Creighton on Saturday.
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