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In its worst position in a decade, Villanova takes on upstart Portland

Villanova's head coach Kyle Neptune calls out to players during the first half in the game against Michigan State on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

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Credit: Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

For the first time in more than a decade, Villanova will take the floor holding a losing record.

After enduring their third close loss under new coach Kyle Neptune, the Wildcats face Portland on Friday afternoon in a consolation game of the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore.

Villanova’s last losing season was 2011-12 when it finished 13-19 and fell under .500 for good after its 21st game. The Wildcats (2-3) are off to a rough start this season due to an inability to win close contests as their three losses to Temple, No. 12 Michigan State and Iowa State are by a combined eight points.

The first loss featured a back-and-forth second half at Temple on Nov. 11. The next two defeats featured comebacks from double-digit deficits that fell slightly short.

Against Michigan State, the Wildcats saw their comeback from 16 points down fall short when Eric Dixon missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. On Thursday, Villanova erased a 16-point deficit and forced overtime before taking an 81-79 loss to the Cyclones in the first round in Portland.

Caleb Daniels scored 25 points and Dixon added 21 on Thursday as Villanova spent many of their offensive possessions behind the 3-point line. They shot 36.1 percent (13 of 36) from beyond the arc and 40.4 percent overall — when they were not committing 18 turnovers.

“For us, it’s always the next game mentality,” Daniels said. “We know we’ve got to stick together. Regardless of wins or losses, we do the same thing: work to get better. What takes that pressure off is knowing we have each other and that next game, next rep, mentality.”

Falling just short cost the Wildcats a meeting with top-ranked North Carolina.

Portland nearly beat the Tar Heels on Thursday, giving up a 14-6 run down the stretch and losing 89-81. Portland (4-3) held a five-point lead midway through the second half and a four-point edge with 5:57 remaining and trailed by only three with 50 seconds left.

Moses Wood led the Pilots with 21 points while Alden Applewhite finished with 14 and top scorer Tyler Robertson contributed all 13 of his points in the second half.

“I think everyone is kind of disappointed that we didn’t come out with a win. We know we had chances to come out and win that game,” Robertson said.

–Field Level Media