Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore don’t need to score points in bunches for No. 15 Villanova to be successful.
Just their presence on the court helps to propel the Wildcats.
Despite both starters being hampered by ankle injuries, Villanova (18-6, 11-3 Big East) still managed to win 75-69 on the road against St. John’s on Tuesday.
Gillespie, a National Player of the Year candidate, went scoreless yet grabbed 10 rebounds while Moore scored 16 points.
Now with a few more key off days, this duo will look to lead the Wildcats again when they host streaking Seton Hall (15-7, 6-6) on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
“His presence is so important for us,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Gillespie. “Both he and Justin said they could go. We started them and they weren’t 100 percent. When Collin went down in the first half, I thought he would tell us he couldn’t go any more. But he said he was good. Justin hadn’t played or practiced since he got hurt at Marquette.
“Just a real gutty effort by both of them,” Wright added.
Ever-improving Eric Dixon scored 16 points and Brandon Slater added 15 in the balanced effort.
Villanova led by 20 with about four minutes left and surprisingly had to hold on for the victory.
“I’m not really sure what happened over those final minutes,” Wright said. “I will have to look at the tape. It’s incredible how a game can be one way for 36 minutes and then totally change in the last four minutes. It’s college basketball, I guess.”
The surging Pirates will look for their fourth consecutive victory when they battle Villanova.
Seton Hall strengthened its potential NCAA Tournament resume with wins over Georgetown, Creighton and most recently, 73-71, over No. 25 Xavier on Wednesday.
Jared Rhoden led the way with 25 points, Alexis Yetna added 12 and Kadary Richmond contributed seven points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of extra work,” Rhoden said. “I’ve been really killing myself, just grinding it out, getting a lot of shots up, watching a lot of film. I’m so happy this game turned out that way because I worked hard for it.”
Earlier this season, Seton Hall struggled mightily on offense for large stretches. Part of that could be correlated with Rhoden’s bout with COVID-19.
Rhoden is thriving now and so are the Pirates.
“I think Jared’s starting to get back to the way he was playing before the COVID-19 shutdown,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “He’s playing really simple basketball, letting the game come to him. He’s stepping in, shooting the basketball, and he’s just playing simple basketball, which when he does that, I think he’s as good as anybody.”
The Pirates will be tested when they compete against Villanova and Connecticut in their next two games. That’s life in the Big East.
“It’s definitely going to be a measuring stick,” Willard said. “I think it’s the two toughest road places (in the Big East).”
Seton Hall is 3-3 this season against ranked opponents.
–Field Level Media