Villanova has dropped out of first place on this challenging road trip and could have another team catch it in the Big East standings Monday night.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats face a daunting challenge as they try to bounce back from their first conference loss when they visit No. 5 West Virginia.
Villanova (20-2, 9-1) had not played in a matchup of top 10 teams since February 2006 before its 11-game win streak ended with Saturday’s 103-90 loss at No. 7 Georgetown. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 23 points and their comeback came up short despite a 59-point second half.
“That was not one of our better performances, but you’ve got to give Georgetown most of the credit. They jumped on us,” coach Jay Wright said. “I think just getting down like that early here and playing that team from behind is really difficult to do.”
The Wildcats had started 9-0 in the Big East for the first time. They fell out of a first-place tie in the conference when then-No. 3 Syracuse won at Cincinnati on Sunday.
“Just because we lost today, nothing changes,” Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds said Saturday. “We’ll do what we have to do to be the best team at the end of the season.”
West Virginia (19-3, 8-2) can pull into a second-place tie with Villanova with a victory Monday. The Mountaineers handed the Wildcats their worst loss last season, 93-72 as Da’Sean Butler badly outplayed Reynolds.
Butler scored a career-high 43 points as the Mountaineers built an 18-point halftime lead. Reynolds fouled out with 12.
Reynolds has been held in check in three career games against West Virginia, averaging 9.3 points on 31.8 percent shooting. He’s fouled out in both previous trips to the WVU Coliseum, committing five turnovers in each loss.
This is West Virginia’s first home game since Wednesday’s 70-51 win over then-No. 22 Pittsburgh in which several fans threw objects onto the court. That prompted coach Bob Huggins to grab the courtside microphone and tell the crowd, “That’s stupid.”
School officials have stated they will be more vigilant in preventing unruly crowd behavior. Villanova has lost four straight visits to Morgantown since a 73-62 win Jan. 23, 1999.
The Mountaineers pushed their win streak to six by rallying from 16 down for a 79-60 victory at St. John’s on Saturday. Butler made all seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 33 points for West Virginia.
“It’s always good when the other four guys are looking for Da’Sean,” Huggins said. “That makes us better.”
Another factor that led to the victory was Joe Mazzulla’s presence. Mazzulla sat out the first half with a sprained ankle before Huggins inserted him to give the Mountaineers a spark.
The major snowfall in New York forced West Virginia to spend the night there rather than travel home after facing the Red Storm. Huggins is trying to keep his team focused.
“It’s probably better off that we do stay,” he told the Mountaineers’ official athletics Web site. “What I have talked about is them being responsible because we have to have a lot of energy on Monday. I think they understand that.”