Coming off back-to-back Big East Conference losses, No. 10-ranked Villanova returns home to Wells Fargo Center on Saturday for a crucial league matchup with No. 12-ranked Seton Hall.
Seton Hall (17-5, 9-1 Big East) extended its conference lead to two games over Villanova (17-5, 7-3) on Wednesday, beating Georgetown on the road at the same time that the Wildcats lost at Butler.
The Pirates rebounded from their first Big East loss, suffered Saturday to Xavier, with a 78-71 win on Wednesday. Myles Powell, the nation’s ninth-leading scorer at 22 points per game, poured in 34 points against the Hoyas.
Powell’s offensive outburst marked a season-high for the preseason All-American in Big East play and was the most points he’s scored since dropping 37 in a Nov. 14 loss to Michigan State.
Wednesday’s victory was a welcome return to form for Seton Hall after the 74-62 loss on Feb. 1, and for Powell individually. His nine points against Xavier were his fewest in any game this season in which he logged more than 15 minutes.
Seton Hall now has a prime opportunity to widen its advantage in the Big East race.
“Personally, I never won there, so that would be a huge accomplishment for me,” Powell told NJ.com. He added with regard to the Big East race, “And to be up three games on Villanova. We control our own destiny right now, and that’s the best part.”
No Seton Hall team has won at Villanova since 1994, but the series has been especially lopsided in Powell’s previous three trips. The Wildcats won those matchups by 30, 16 and 28 points.
This year, Villanova limps in after dropping its second straight in Big East competition. The Wildcats fell Feb. 1 at home to Creighton, 76-61, and Wednesday at Butler, 79-76.
Butler’s Kamar Baldwin sank Villanova on a step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“You have to give them credit,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said in his postgame press conference. “They hit shots and made plays, and we did, too. But they made the last one.”
Saddiq Bey and Collin Gillespie scored 29 and 28 points respectively in the loss, but the rest of the Wildcats struggled mightily offensively. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree’s three points were all Villanova got from its bench.
Offensive production has not been a concern for Villanova much of this season, however. The Wildcats rank 13th in the nation in KenPom.com adjusted offensive efficiency.
In all five of its losses, however, Villanova surrendered at least 71 points — including in the last two.
That puts a particular emphasis on the Wildcats slowing the explosive-scoring Powell, though of additional concern is containing his backcourt mate, Quincy McKnight.
McKnight is Seton Hall’s second-most effective 3-point shooter at 26 of 72 on the year, and he ranks in the top 30 among all Division I players in assist rate.
–Field Level Media