Villanova, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - James Bell propelled the No. 6 Villanova Wildcats to an 81-58 victory over the Xavier Musketeers with a game-high 27 points on Monday.
Bell shot 6-of-10 from beyond the arc and added eight rebounds, while Darrun Hilliard supplied 17 points and three assists. JayVaughn Pinkston had 11 points and eight rebounds in Villanova's (20-2, 8-1 Big East) fourth straight victory.
"We got hot at the end when they had to open the floor to try and trap a little bit and we got open threes. A good win for us against a very good team and I think it was one of our best defensive efforts this year," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright.
Semaj Christon paced the Musketeers (15-7, 5-4) with 17 points and four assists, while Matt Stainbrook contributed 14 points and 11 boards as Xavier dropped its third game in a row.
"They did a much better job of getting to loose balls, getting their misses, and because of that, we found ourselves trailing the entire second half," said Xavier head coach Chris Mack.
Villanova got off to a quick 9-0 start aided by two baskets from Ryan Arcidiacono and a corner triple from Pinkston. Stainbrook finally put Xavier on the board with a dunk to make it 9-2 just after the four-minute mark of the contest.
Myles Davis later knocked down a three in the midst of a 7-3 spurt for Xavier that Bell halted with a trey and then a dunk to extend the Wildcats' lead to 25-14 with four minutes left in the first half.
Christon made two layups and Stainbrook added one of his own with 34 seconds left to get the Musketeers within six, 28-22, going into the break.
Justin Martin cut the Wildcats' lead down to three points after he nailed consecutive triples early in the second half. Part of an 11-4 burst thereafter, Hilliard drove into the lane and dished the ball out to Bell, who knocked down a three off the left wing to reestablish a 10-point lead for the Wildcats at 42-32 minutes later.
Arcidiacono pulled down a defensive rebound and hit Ennis in transition, who flew in for a one-handed slam to extend Villanova's lead to a 51-36 with just under 12 minutes to go.
Villanova led by as many as 17 after Daniel Ochefu went in on a dunk to make it 55-38 with 10:19 remaining. Josh Hart's dunk with just under five to go extended the Wildcats lead to 18. Xavier was unable to halt Villanova's offensive pressure as the hosts closed out the game with its largest lead.