Xavier's hot start was met with Villanova's surging defense, which tightened the clamps and forced 14 turnovers -- and held the Musketeers to just 29.3 percent shooting.
Here are three takeaways from Villanova's win over Xavier:
1. Xavier lived -- and eventually died -- by the 3-pointer
Xavier got off to a quick start against the No. 3 Wildcats. It scored 21 points in the first 10 minutes, then scored just seven the rest of the first half. Xavier's lead melted as soon as the Musketeers went cold from beyond the arc.
Of Xavier's 28 shots in the first half, 20 came from behind the 3-point line.
It was feast or famine the entire game for Xavier. As quickly as Xavier opened things up to extend its early lead, it just as easily fell behind when shots weren't falling. Villanova went on a 41-18 run over a 16-minute span from the close of the first half to the opening 10 minutes of the second half. And Villanova dared Xavier to keep shooting, which they happily did. And eventually they shot themselves out of the game, finishing just 6-of-32 from beyond the 3-point line. Not good.
2.The Big East is still Villanova's to lose
Yes, Villanova has already fallen to Butler in Big East play. But that was the Wildcats' first loss in 298 days. Did we really expect them to be perfect all season?
The top of the conference is still loaded: Butler, Creighton, Villanova, Xavier and Seton Hall are all likely tournament teams. But when Villanova plays like it did against Xavier, the Wildcats are going to be a tall task for any team in the league, and the reality is, we see more Villanova performances like this one against Xavier than when they fell flat against Butler. It will be difficult for any of the conference's contenders to overtake them for a regular-season title.
3. Josh Hart continued his hot season
Josh Hart's line on the night: 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists.
That's par for the course for the senior and veteran leader of this Wildcats team.
When Villanova needs a spark, whether it be on defense or offense, Hart always seems to be in perfect position to pick things up. He has a rhythm and feel for the game that no one else does. If he feels like his team is sluggish, he'll pop out of nowhere and make a big defensive play. And when he feels he has the opponent on the ropes, he knows how to put things away. That's what a good, seasoned vet can do.
Fittingly, he delivered the dagger late to officially put things out of reach:
Villanova's next four scheduled games are against unranked teams, before a stiff test at home against Virginia at the end of January.
Tuesday's showing against Xavier proved that Villanova, despite its loss to Butler in conference play, is still the team to beat in the Big East.