(2) Villanova (5-0) at Rhode Island (5-1)

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  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Sat Nov 29, 2008
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Villanova is still undefeated, but coach Jay Wright is still looking for his team to put together a solid effort for 40 minutes.

After surviving a shaky first half in their latest win, the 20th-ranked Wildcats again hope for a stronger performance over an entire game when they play Rhode Island in the Philly Hoop Group Classic championship game on Saturday at the Palestra.

Villanova (5-0) defeated Towson 64-47 on Friday in the Philly Classic, but it wasn’t easy.

The Wildcats went into the locker room with a 33-28 lead, and the margin was only that wide because Villanova’s Corey Fisher hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer. The Wildcats came out inspired after the break, however, and opened the second half with a 13-3 spurt to put the game out of reach.

“I think we just executed better,” Wright said. “We weren’t really poised in the first half.”

Wright also wasn’t thrilled with the Wildcats’ effort in the second half of Tuesday’s 71-48 win over Monmouth. Villanova limited the Hawks to just 13 points over the first 20 minutes, but got outscored 35-26 after the break.

Junior guard Scottie Reynolds struggled against Monmouth, finishing with nine points while shooting 1 of 6 from the field, but bounced back to score 14 points on Friday.

“In the second half, we came out and executed,” Reynolds said. “We made the easy pass and we weren’t trying to do everything by ourself with the ball.”

Defense again kept the Wildcats in the game on Friday, as they limited Towson to 32.7 percent shooting, including 18.5 percent (5-for-27) from beyond the 3-point arc.

Villanova, which has opened with five straight wins for the first time since the 2005-06 team began 10-0, is holding opponents to an average of 57.0 points on 36.7 percent shooting this season.

It faces a challenge in Rhode Island (4-1), which is averaging 83.8 points while shooting 50.0 percent shooting from the floor overall and 46.2 percent from 3-point range.

The Rams advanced to the Philly Classic championship by defeating Penn State 77-72 in Friday’s first game.

Senior guard Jimmy Baron scored 20 points, including four crucial free throws in the last 12.6 seconds, while junior Keith Cothran finished with 18.

Baron made 4 of 6 3-point attempts Friday, and is 26-for-45 (57.8 percent) from 3-point range on the season. The son of head coach Jim Baron, averaging a team-high 18.2 points, scored a season-high 24 points - all coming on 10 3-point attempts - in Rhode Island’s 82-79 loss to then-No. 8 Duke on Nov. 16 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Rams have won four straight games since that defeat, but have dropped 17 straight against ranked opponents since a 70-63 victory over No. 21 Utah on Dec. 2, 1998, when future NBA star Lamar Odom scored 15 points.

Villanova holds a 4-2 lead in the all-time series with Rhode Island, but the schools have not met since 1950.

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