Drexel defeats Villanova in historical Big 5 matchup | The Triangle

Drexel defeats Villanova in historical Big 5 matchup

Photo by Raphael Bartell | The Triangle

Drexel did the impossible and dethroned the mighty Villanova Wildcats in a cutthroat game that ended 57-55. The game took place at the Wells Fargo Center with stands full of navy and gold.

The two teams matched up in the Big 5 consolation match, and since Villanova’s two big losses this year were against the Big 5 teams, UPenn and St. Joe’s, both teams entered the game winless in Big 5 play. 

Villanova, ranked 18th in the country, entered the day with an impressive 6-2 record, while Drexel sat at a respectable 4-3. Villanova was a 10.5 point favorite entering the game per ESPN, and Drexel, unfortunately, was not given a shot.

Drexel’s highly ranked defense was on full display right away as they put up a tight knit defense, making sure Villanova could not score. And that they did as they held Villanova scoreless through the first three minutes, with Drexel star forward Amari Williams recording two blocks in the early stages of the game, one of the more notable blocks being against Villanova’s own Justin Moore.

Although it was a low scoring affair for the majority of the game, the Dragons had multiple impressive offensive possessions that allowed them to move the ball well and run out the clock. From early in the game, the Dragons shot well from the deep. However, it wasn’t the usual Williams and Moore led offense early on, as neither had attempted a shot through a majority of the first quarter. Both Luke House and Lamar Oden Jr. were big contributors. Luke House nailed two three-pointers and had eight first half points and Oden made five points within the first half.

At half, the Dragons led by only a point, 26-25. Villanova forward Eric Dixon was fouled on a successful three point shot which became a four point play at the end of the half. 

The Dragons started off the second half with the ball in their possession and a quick three by Yame Butler. The second half then saw the Dragons go up as much as eight at points as they continued their strong play on both ends of the court. Drexel also stepped up their rebounding game in the second half of the game with a few rebounds being made to prevent the Wildcats from getting possession of the ball. However, slowly, the Wildcats were able to fight back to a 57-55 score with under a minute to play.

With 31.3 seconds remaining, Drexel ran a strong press on Villanova, and trapped Junior Guard Jordan Longino. With 6.7 seconds left and struggling to get anything moving on the offensive side, Villanova coach Kyle Neptune called a timeout, which was followed by a play to get their star guard Justin Moore the ball. Moore attempted to fight through and put up a layup, but was blocked by Amari Williams in an exciting finish that drew a roar of cheers from the Drexel stands.

It was a defensive master class from Drexel, holding the number eighteen school in the country to only 55 points, and holding arguably Villanova’s best scorer, Justin Moore, to 4 points on 1/11 shooting from the field. The Wildcats as a team shot a rough 32.8% from the field and 18.5% from beyond the arc, another testament to the Dragons strong defensive showing.  One of the biggest improvements for the Dragons, and an aspect that allowed them to win the game was the three point shooting. 

Luke House was one of these shooters who caught the attention of the crowd by dropping several impressive threes. Entering the night the Dragons were shooting an abysmal 23.8% from three, but shot 50% in the contest against Villanova.

Amari Williams, Drexel’s 6 ’10 ” senior, finished the day with an impressive five blocks, as well as six rebounds, and led the team with twelve points. His major task for the night was guarding Eric Dixon, Villanova’s star player of the night, who although finished the day with a big 21 out of their 55 points, was stopped on multiple clutch occasions by Williams. When asked about the challenge of guarding Dixon, Williams acknowledged that “you don’t really get to play a big like him everyday.”

On top of the very impressive victory of beating a ranked team, the historical implications of the game should not be understated. It was only the second time Drexel has beat Villanova (Villanova holds an impressive all-time 18-2 lead in their matchups), with the only other win being in 2006. 

On top of this Drexel earned their first ever win in the Big 5. “This is exactly what those who decided to make this event happen envisioned, and that is a great day for Philadelphia basketball,” said Drexel Coach Zach Spiker, who was in a state of excitement following one of the biggest wins of his career.