By Ben Sullivan
Ryan Arcidiacono’s 2014-15 started slowly, and the Villanova point guard began hearing that he was no longer the leader of the Cats the way he had been when he was a freshman and a sophomore.
He’s not hearing that stuff anymore.
Arcidiacono had 18 points and six assists, Dylan Ennis finished with 17 points and six rebounds, and No. 5 Villanova made a season-high 15 3-pointers to beat Xavier 88-75 on Wednesday night at the Pavilion.
Josh Hart added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats (16-1 overall, 4-1 Big East), who have won three straight conference games by an average of nearly 15 points since their only loss of the season.
JayVaughn Pinkston (12 points) and Darrun Hilliard (10 points) also hit double figures for the ‘Cats.
Center Matt Stainbrook scored 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting to lead Xavier (11-6, 2-3), which outscored Villanova 46-18 in the paint. J.P. Macura and Jalen Reynolds added 14 points apiece for the Musketeers.
Villanova, which came in shooting 35.3 percent from 3-point range, made six 3-pointers in the first seven minutes and shot 15 for 34 from long-range for the game.
Trailing by 23 early in the second half, the Musketeers reeled off 11 straight points to cut Villanova’s lead to 61-49 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
But Ennis buried his sixth 3-pointer of the game to slow down Xavier’s rally and Arcidiacono made his fourth 3 on Villanova’s next trip down the floor. Before that stretch, the Wildcats had missed eight straight 3-pointers, which allowed the Musketeers to get back into the game.
After Macura’s fourth 3-pointer sliced Xavier’s deficit to 10 with five minutes left, Villanova scored eight straight points to put the game away, highlighted by a crucial three-point play from Hilliard.
The Wildcats made eight of their first 12 3-point attempts and finished the first half shooting 50 percent from behind the arc to take a 45-27 lead into halftime.