Xavier hangs on for tight win over Villanova

Quincy Olivari scored 14 points and hit two key free throws late to lead Xavier past Villanova 56-53 in a back-and-forth Big East battle Wednesday night in Cincinnati.

Desmond Claude added 11 points, six assists and six rebounds for Xavier (13-10, 7-5 Big East), which won its third straight game. Olivari pulled down eight rebounds.

Brendan Hausen scored 15 and Eric Dixon had 13 for Villanova (12-11, 5-7), which lost for the sixth time in seven games.

Both teams struggled badly from the field. Xavier made just 21 of 61 shots (34.4 percent), while Villanova was only 19 of 56 (33.9 percent).

Xavier avenged a 66-65 loss at Villanova on Jan. 3.

Olivari, coming off a career-best 43-point effort in a win at DePaul on Saturday, was the focus of a tight Villanova defense throughout the game.

Hausen, whose layup brought Villanova to within two with 45 seconds to go, had a chance to tie the game with 35 seconds remaining. However, he missed the second of two free throws, leaving Xavier’s lead at 54-53.

Olivari drained two free throws with 18.3 seconds remaining to put Xavier up by three, and Villanova couldn’t get off a potential game-tying 3-point attempt as time ran out.

Both teams came out cold to start the game as Xavier made just two of its first nine shots but managed a 19-9 lead on a steal and dunk from Dailyn Swain.

Villanova was even colder, making just one of its first nine shots and two of its first 12. But the Wildcats used a swarming half-court defense that saw Xavier miss their seven consecutive shots during a 13-0 Villanova run that put the visitors up 22-19.

Villanova extended the lead to 28-23 and had a chance to add to it right before the half. However, a bad pass from Dixon led to a fastbreak chance, and Olivari drained a trey at the buzzer to close Villanova’s lead to 28-26 entering the break.

Xavier used a 9-0 run to build a 42-35 lead as Villanova missed 14 of their first 16 shots from the field in the second half.

Villanova answered with a 15-8 run to tie it 50-50 on consecutive layups by Hakim Hart and TJ Bamba. Swain’s dunk put Xavier back on top 52-50 with 4:18 remaining. Desmond Claude’s runner off the glass with 2:35 left gave the Musketeers a four-point lead.