Coach Mack isn't afraid to make changes...
First off, credit where it's due: commenter XUBBFAN told us well before game time that Xavier would start Dee, JP, Austin, Bluiett, and Stainbrook. I doubted him, but he was right and I was wrong. Mack indeed did go with that starting five to send a message to players who had gotten a little too comfortable. It's hard to say what Remy Abell had done to merit a benching beyond being Xavier's best player for about a month, but he began the game on the pine
...but the product looked the same
The game had barely started by the time Villanova was 5-6 from behind the arc. At the end of the first half, Villanova was shooting 16-33/9-18/4-4 and up 45-27. The same things that have plagued Xavier all year - and indeed for most of Coach Mack's tenure - were present with both the new starters and the old standbys on the floor. You simply can't let a team get 18 looks at the bucket from deep in a single half and expect to go away a winner.
There's no quit in this team
Down 18 at the half and getting thoroughly outplayed in every facet of the game in a hostile gym, it would have been pretty easy for Xavier to turn turtle and just play out the last 20 minutes before slinking home. Instead, they continued to battle back, cutting the lead to ten but never quite being able to get over the hump. Villanova eventually extended the lead back to a beyond comfotable margin because of the same problems Xavier always has, but at least the Muskies didn't mail in the finish.