The Wildcats had won 51 of their previous 52 games inside the Pavilion, their on-campus home. (Villanova plays most of its marquee home games at the larger Wells Fargo Center.) For the Bulls, it was only their seventh road win in Big East play, and seldom have road wins come this easily.
USF held just a two-point lead at halftime, but they came on strong after that even as Villanova increased the pace of the game to their liking. The Bulls scored 47 points in the second half and shot 58% from the field, all without their starting point guard Anthony Collins. The freshman guard was injured in the first half on a drive to the basket, landing hard and then hitting his head on the court. He briefly returned to the game, then remained on the bench after halftime. Blake Nash came in and had 12 points, six assists, and only one turnover for the Bulls.
Foul trouble for the Bulls helped the Wildcats make a run after USF had built a 12-point lead. Ron Anderson Jr. and Augustus Gilchrist each picked up their fourth foul in the middle of the second half, and Villanova took advantage to cut USF's lead to 48-45 with nine minutes remaining. Poland personally ended the threat, though, scoring seven points during a 9-2 run that built the Bulls' lead back out to double digits.
Two of Villanova's regular starters, Malik Wayns and Dominic Cheek, did not start the game because of what a Villanova spokesperson deemed "a minor issue" during practice earlier in the week. Both entered the game off the bench, and Wayns led the Wildcats with 17 points. But the rest of his teammates struggled badly. Villanova shot 38%, made only four of their 20 three-point attempts, and were outrebounded 36-18.
The Bulls move to 9-7 on the season and 2-1 in Big East play. USF's next game is at Notre Dame on Tuesday, January 10. The Wildcats are now 7-8 and 0-3 in the conference, and they have a lot of work to do if they plan on reaching the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight year.