Since playing three games in six days to open the season, Villanova has had five days to recuperate. The Wildcats could be getting another break by hosting a Monmouth team on Tuesday night that’s trying to avoid its worst start in a decade.
The 20th-ranked Wildcats go for their 19th win in a row at the Pavilion as they take on the Hawks in the Philly Hoop Group Classic.
Despite a number of injuries, the Wildcats improved to 3-0 on Wednesday with a 77-62 preliminary-round victory against Niagara.
Junior center Casiem Drummond is battling soreness in his left foot and was scoreless in two minutes against the Purple Eagles, while sophomore guard Corey Stokes came off the bench for the first time this season due to a sprained left thumb. He hit 2-of-4 from 3-point range and scored eight points in 27 minutes.
Senior Dwayne Anderson has not played this season after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot on Nov. 13.
“We just have to be smart about it,” junior Scottie Reynolds said of the quick turnaround between games. “We have to be mature and learn from film and go out there with the idea that we’ve got to get better in a shorter period of time.”
But playing on short rest hasn’t been a problem for Villanova this season as it has outscored its opponents by an average of 24.0 points.
Reynolds had his worst shooting game of the season against Niagara, hitting only 4-of-14 from the field, but made 9-of-10 free throws en route to a season-high 19 points. He is one of six Wildcats averaging in double figures.
Dante Cunningham, averaging a team-high 18.3 points, tallied season lows with 11 points and three rebounds versus the Purple Eagles, while junior guard Reggie Redding tied a career high with 14 points.
Villanova has made at least six 3-pointers in each game and is hitting 42.6 percent from long range this season.
“I was happy we kind of gutted it out,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said following his 150th victory at the school. “It’s not a pretty victory, but a good one to have in the bank.”
Monmouth dropped to 0-4 with an 83-62 loss to Penn on Saturday, and is trying to avoid its first 0-5 start since opening 0-19 in 1998-99.
Since their season-opening 72-69 loss to Florida Atlantic, the Hawks (0-4) have dropped their last three games by an average of 21.0 points.
Travis Taylor posted his first double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while fellow freshman Mike Myers Keitt scored a season-high 20 versus the Quakers.
Keitt committed five of the Hawks’ season-high 25 turnovers.
Monmouth is averaging 16.5 turnovers and that could be a problem against Villanova, which is forcing 16.7 turnovers per game.
The Wildcats are 5-0 all-time against the Hawks. In the teams’ last meeting on March 17, 2006, top-seeded Villanova won 58-45 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Villanova continues tournament play on Friday night at the Palestra against Towson, while Monmouth faces Niagara that afternoon.