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HomeSportsBasketballNo. 18 Villanova in unfamiliar territory, draws Drexel

No. 18 Villanova in unfamiliar territory, draws Drexel


Villanova did not expect to be competing in the fifth-place game of the inaugural Big 5 Classic Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

But that’s where the No. 18-ranked Wildcats (6-2) find themselves with a matchup against Drexel following losses against Pennsylvania and Saint Joseph’s.

Villanova consistently stood atop the Big 5 — which now includes the Dragons in recent years. The Wildcats won national championships in 2016 and 2018.

Without Hall of Fame head coach Jay Wright, Villanova hasn’t found the same success. Under the direction of second-year coach Kyle Neptune, the Wildcats finished 17-17 last season and are off to a 6-2 start in Year Two.

Villanova had won four in a row until dropping a 78-65 decision to Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday. It was the Wildcats’ first loss to the Hawks since 2011, and its first home loss to Saint Joseph’s since 2004.

“They came out, were tough defensively and made some really tough shots as well,” Neptune said of Saint Joseph’s. “They played with a lot of energy and passion.”

Justin Moore scored 17 points while Eric Dixon added 14 in the disappointing result for Villanova, which also had 17 turnovers.

Before falling to Saint Joseph’s, the Wildcats defeated Texas Tech, North Carolina and Memphis to capture the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

“Our best game is our next game,” Dixon said. “That’s how we always think. That’s not gonna change. We’ll be able to get back tomorrow, win or lose, and get better. This doesn’t change that much.”

Drexel will look for a signature victory on Saturday afternoon.

The Dragons (4-3) were welcomed to the Big 5 this season and defeated host Lafayette 69-48 on Wednesday.

Mate Okros scored 14 points, Lamar Oden Jr. added 11 and Amari Williams had 10. Drexel also received an unexpected boost of nine points and seven rebounds from Garfield Turner.

“Coming off the bench I try to bring energy and do what I do,” Turner said. “They told me to go hard at both ends of the court.”

Okros made four shots from 3-point range and Oden Jr. added a pair.

“We got guys who can shoot them, like you saw with Mate Okros tonight,” Oden Jr. said. “I think sometimes you have to see the ball go in and then you have confidence the rest are going in.”

Drexel hardly played a perfect game. There were lapses of execution on both ends of the court.

But the Dragons did enough to come away with the important road win. More importantly, they built some extra confidence for their looming matchup with Villanova.

“I thought we defended pretty well tonight,” Drexel head coach Zach Spiker said. “The difference was we made 3s (in the second half), we shot 58 percent. We’re putting the time in (shooting 3s), and I’m confident in our guys and happy for them when they have success from it. That’s a great locker room right now.”

“I can’t wait. This is the first time for me (at the Wells Fargo Center),” Oden Jr. added. “This is going to be fun. You always dream of playing in an NBA arena.”

–Field Level Media

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