Villanova-Saint Joseph's Preview
Villanova has endured a few significant tests over its first eight games, though it is yet to play in a true road environment.
The 14th-ranked Wildcats will make the short drive to rival Saint Joseph's on Saturday for a Big Five matchup, playing their first game of the season on an opponent's court after reemerging onto the national scene last week.
"You can never tell how intense it's going to be," Villanova head coach Jay Wright told the school's official website. "You just know the intensity is going to be up there. It's St. Joe-Villanova - there's nothing like it in college basketball. It's an honor to be a part of."
After a pair of nail-biters against then-No. 2 Kansas and then-No. 23 Iowa to close out their Battle 4 Atlantis title in the Bahamas, the Wildcats (8-0) beat Pennsylvania 77-54 at home on Wednesday.
The Hawks (4-3) could present a tougher test with three wins in their last five games hosting the rivalry. The Wildcats have won seven of the last nine overall in the series, however, including last year's 65-61 home win on Dec. 11.
"I don't think there's any game that can prepare you for the Saint Joseph's game," Wright said. "We use the Saint Joseph's game as one that prepares us for the Big East games. We won't go into another environment that will be any more difficult than this."
Wright's team isn't exactly taking the court with the hot hand. Villanova is shooting 37.7 percent in its last three games, and it went scoreless for 7:29 to open the second half against the Quakers before recovering a comfortable lead.
Consistent defensive efforts have made that sustainable with opponents shooting 37.9 percent for the season.
"Right now we could easily be 6-2," Wright said. "We've just had guys step up and make big shots at critical times."
Upperclassmen James Bell and JayVaughn Pinkston, each averaging 16.6 points, have often been those guys, while junior Darrun Hilliard (13.8) scored a game-high 19 against the Quakers on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.
After letting an 18-point halftime lead slip to single digits midway through the second half, they're after a more complete game against Saint Joseph's.
"I don't think the Bahamas really gave us a big head," Hilliard said, "but you can't look past anybody."
Saint Joseph's had its worst shooting night of the season Wednesday in a 77-69 loss at Temple. The Hawks shot 38.5 percent and went 6 of 26 from beyond the arc.
Langston Galloway scored a game-high 24 points and kept the Hawks in it by knocking down 6 of 12 from long range. The senior is averaging 18.1 points.
The game was tied 65-all with under 5 minutes to go, but the Hawks went cold.
"We made some plays that were young for a team of our age - missed dunks, missed layups, dropped balls, a missed assignment to block out a shooter at the end," coach Phil Martelli told the school's website.
Galloway scored a game-high 22 in last year's loss at Villanova and had 20 in a 74-58 win over the Wildcats on Dec. 17, 2011. He was a combined 9 of 13 from 3-point range in those games.
The Hawks went 1-5 against ranked opponents in 2012-13.