Villanova looks to stay hot vs. Big 5 foe St. Joseph’s

NCAA Basketball
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Villanova will try to win its third straight game against a Big 5 opponent when it ventures across Philadelphia to play at St. Joseph’s on Saturday.

The 23rd-ranked Wildcats (6-2) are coming off an 80-69 win over Pennsylvania on Wednesday after defeating La Salle on Sunday. Villanova plays at Temple on Feb. 16.

“There are no surprises in these games,” Wildcats head coach Jay Wright said. “It’s not just the coaches who know one another, it’s the players. Everyone knows who goes right, who goes left, who’s a confident shooter, who isn’t a confident shooter.”

St. Joseph’s (2-7) will play its first Big 5 game when it hosts Villanova. The Hawks play at Temple on Tuesday, at Penn on Jan. 18 and face La Salle in Atlantic 10 play on Feb. 8.

Villanova has 26 Big 5 titles. Temple has the most with 27. Villanova won five straight before Penn ended the run last season.

“We looked forward to this game,” Wright said after the win over the Quakers on Wednesday. “It wasn’t about winning or losing. It was knowing we were going to be tested by a disciplined team. Our mental toughness was going to be tested, our execution was going to be tested. And then we’d see where we are. We happened to win.”

Sophomore forward Saddiq Bey had a career-high 27 points along with six rebounds in the win over Penn. Villanova attempted only 10 3-pointers because of Penn’s active defense on the perimeter.

Villanova freshmen Justin Moore (17 points) and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (13 points, 12 rebounds) were also pivotal in the win.

“Even in years past when we beat (Penn), we didn’t get 3s,” said Wright, whose team finished 4 of 10 from beyond the arc.

“They’re very committed to their style of play. A lot of teams are, but they execute it really well. Penn’s not going to break down. These (Big 5) games help us.”

St. Joseph’s is on a six-game losing streak after dropping a 94-71 decision to Lafayette on Tuesday.

Redshirt junior Ryan Daly led the Hawks with 25 points and a game-high five assists, while freshman Cameron Brown finished with a season-high 13 points.

The Hawks are without starting forward Taylor Funk, who has a hand injury and is out indefinitely. Funk is averaging 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds a game.

St. Joseph’s coach Billy Lange said the difference in the loss to Lafayette was allowing the Leopards to make 14 of 28 shots from 3-point range. Lafayette shot 54.8 percent from the field overall.

“You have to get out on the 3,” said Lange, who is in his first season as the coach at St. Joseph’s after spending the last six years as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers.

“When we were able to (defend the 3-pointer) for a couple of periods of time, we were actually able to hang in. Then it’s just a few mistakes and it’s over. They’re a great shooting team.

“You can’t make a mistake. We went three possessions of zone, and three times they hit 3s. They bury you on any missed connection.”

–Field Level Media

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