For much of the afternoon, it looked like Villanova was going to get their first road win of the season. They were soundly beaten at Temple, St. Joe's, West Virginia and Marquette. The foe this time was the Cincinnati Bearcats, one of the toughest defenses in the conference.
Villanova came out firing, and actually knocking down three-point shots. They came into the game shooting just 30 percent from long-range, but hit 10-of-16 from deep in the first half.
Junior point guard Maalik Wayns was out of his mind, scoring 19 first-half points and pulling down six rebounds with four assists. The true bright spot was Dominic Cheek, who gave Wayns some help, adding 16 points of his own.
At the half, Villanova was leading 45-40 against a team that was only giving up 59.8 points per game.
The Wildcats continued their hot shooting to open the second half, hitting two more threes in their first four attempts. Unfortunately, they missed their last 10.
Villanova showed a lot of heart and resilience, and despite their inability to knock down outside shots, they battled on defense and fought their way to the foul line.
For the first time all season, they were hanging around in a back-and-forth game against a good team, and it was on the road.
The Wildcats didn't trail until midway through the second half, 57-56, and immediately regained the lead. They managed to gain a two-point edge with 6:09 remaining, but it was the least time they were ahead.
They ultimately were undone by 11 second-half turnovers and a 9-of-32 shooting performance over the final 20 minutes. In contrast, Cincinnati only turned the ball over once in the second half.
In the end, Cincinnati took care of the ball better, got better shots and took advantage of their opportunities. Villanova came apart at the seams and wasted a 39-point, 13-rebound, six-assist effort by Wayns. After 16 points in the first half, Cheek managed just three in the second on 1-for-6 shooting.
If there is one good thing to take from this game, it is that Villanova has come a long way defensively. Despite giving up 82 points, they contested almost every shot and didn't allow many easy baskets.
Cincinnati, to their credit, hit a bunch of tough threes and knocked down 19 free throws.
For Villanova, they are now at a point where they should compete every night, but in order to pull out some wins, they need to take better care of the ball, and work for better shots.
They are now 1-5 in the conference and 8-10 overall. They still have a chance to finish over .500, but this season is gradually becoming more of a learning experience for next year.