Drexel is not a Big 5 rival for Villanova, but the Dragons have made a name for themselves in Philadelphia basketball of late.
The intracity rivals meet Wednesday at The Pavilion, where No. 3 Villanova will try to extend its win streak there to 31 and avenge its lone loss in the lopsided series.
The Wildcats, trying to start 7-0 for the second straight season after opening 2008-09 with eight consecutive victories, have won 20 of 21 against Big 5 rivals La Salle, Temple, Pennsylvania and Saint Joseph’s as the programs annually battle for bragging rights in the City of Brotherly Love.
Coach Jay Wright’s team posted an 81-63 victory over La Salle on Saturday, overcoming 27 offensive rebounds by the Explorers by forcing 27 turnovers.
Wright knows his team still has to improve to live up to the preseason billing as the favorite in the Big East while seeking a second straight Final Four appearance.
“We’ve been going through some things like every team,” said Wright, whose squad plays four straight on the road after this game. “It’s been a lot of adjustments. If we’re going to have a good team, we’ve got to be balanced. We have to have an inside game; that’s where ‘Tone (Antonio Pena) really helps us. We have to have a drive game and a 3-point shooting game.”
Pena and senior guard Scottie Reynolds each scored 14 on Saturday for the Wildcats, and Reynolds - a starter all but two of his 112 games - had arguably his worst collegiate performance as a freshman in an 81-76 home loss to Drexel on Dec. 29, 2006. He went 0 for 5 with four turnovers in 20 minutes as the Wildcats suffered their first defeat in 18 all-time meetings.
While Villanova has gone 13-1 against the other four Big 5 schools since the start of the 2006-07 season, Drexel (3-4) has posted a 7-5 record versus those schools in that span - losing in overtime at Saint Joseph’s and winning at Penn this season - as the outsider in Philadelphia. The Dragons have not been to the NCAA tournament since making three straight appearances in the mid-1990s and have not reached the postseason since the 2007 NIT.
Drexel is coming off a strong showing at the Legends Classic. Coach James “Bruiser” Flint’s team rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit before losing 61-54 to Ivy League favorite Cornell on Sunday. Jamie Harris scored 15 for the Dragons, who had beaten Vermont and Toledo in the first two rounds.
The Dragons have shot 46.4 percent from the field in their last four games after making 34.0 percent the first three.
Drexel is 1-8 against ranked teams since the start of the 1996-97 season, winning 84-79 at Syracuse on Dec. 19, 2006.
The Wildcats have not lost at The Pavilion since falling 75-63 to DePaul on Jan. 6, 2007.