Fresh off its first loss, Villanova is set to welcome back a major part of its run to the Final Four from a season ago.
Reggie Redding will make his season debut for the eighth-ranked Wildcats on Saturday when they take on Fordham at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
Redding started 22 games for Villanova (9-1) in 2008-09, and came on strong in the NCAA tournament. He averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in five NCAA games.
The 6-foot-5 senior forward was arrested and charged over the summer with possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He sat out the first 10 games because he violated the school’s student of code of conduct.
Redding’s return comes at a good time for the Wildcats, whose perfect start ended Sunday with a 75-65 loss to Big 5 rival Temple. Villanova led by as many as 14 points before finishing with its lowest point total and allowing the Owls to shoot 54.2 percent - the highest mark by a Wildcats’ opponent.
“We were going to get our first loss at some time,” coach Jay Wright said. “This team wasn’t going to go undefeated, I promise you that.”
Leading scorer Scottie Reynolds had 23 points and Antonio Pena added 16. Duke transfer Taylor King fouled out with six points after averaging 16.3 over his three previous games.
The Wildcats have two weeks before their Big East opener Jan. 2 at Marquette, and Wright believes Big 5 games against city opponents provided great preparation.
“There’s benefits to it,” Wright said. “We’d either play these games or a national game like Kansas. We think these are just as good.”
Fordham (2-6) is the third straight Atlantic 10 opponent for Villanova, which beat Saint Joseph’s 97-89 on Dec. 9. The Rams, though, are not quite at the level of the Owls or Hawks.
After going 3-25 a season ago, Fordham started 1-4 and fired coach Dereck Whittenburg. Jared Grasso was named interim coach.
The Rams have lost two of three under Grasso, falling 73-56 on Sunday at St. John’s. Fordham trailed by 19 points at halftime before being more competitive over the final 20 minutes.
“I’m pleased with the way we played and competed in the second half,” Grasso said. “The effort got better in the second half and I tell the guys that we have to keep getting better every day and if we do, we’ll be successful.”
Freshman Chris Gaston, last week’s Atlantic 10 rookie of the week, had a season-high 32 points and 15 rebounds. Brenton Butler was the only other Ram in double figures with 11.
Villanova has won five straight against Fordham, including a 107-68 rout last season. The Wildcats placed all five starters in double figures while Butler led the Rams with 17 points.
This is the first game at the Izod Center for Villanova since beating Seton Hall on Feb. 10, 2007. The Wildcats are 10-12 all-time at the arena.