Villanova is coming off a split of two matchups against Big East rivals also ranked among the nation’s elite. Struggling Providence might be thrilled with splitting a grueling stretch against similar foes.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats look to continue their success against the Friars and regain a share of first place in the conference Saturday afternoon at the Wachovia Center.
Villanova (21-2, 10-1) shot 56.9 percent Monday en route to an 82-75 win at fifth-ranked West Virginia, two days after losing 103-90 at No. 7 Georgetown for its first conference loss. The Wildcats held the Mountaineers to 41.0 percent from the field after letting the Hoyas hit 56.3 percent.
“We really played as a unit defensively,” coach Jay Wright said after the West Virginia win. “We really covered for each other and played unselfishly. When we had to switch, we switched. We got down against Georgetown and lost our composure and started scrambling. (On Monday), we really kept good composure defensively.”
Despite allowing 72.1 points per game to rank 14th in the Big East, Villanova is one-half game behind second-ranked Syracuse for the conference lead.
Another superb performance from Scottie Reynolds could help the Wildcats grab a share of first place for at least a day. The Orange host Louisville on Sunday.
Reynolds, the team leader with 18.8 points per game, came up big at West Virginia, scoring 19 of his 21 points in the final 13 minutes. The senior guard had 24 points on 6-for-17 shooting against the Hoyas.
Reynolds has thrived against Providence (12-12, 4-8), averaging 21.0 points in four meetings. He had 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting in a 97-80 win March 5 in the teams’ most recent matchup as the Wildcats ran their win streak in the series to seven.
The Friars have lost four in a row and that skid may be tough to snap in the near future. This game is the second of four straight against teams currently ranked seventh or higher in the AP poll.
They didn’t get that stretch off to a good start Tuesday, shooting 34.4 percent to fall 79-70 to Georgetown.
Coach Keno Davis said he had never heard of a team having to endure such a difficult span of games. After visiting Villanova, Providence will host West Virginia on Wednesday and Syracuse on Feb. 23.
“I think what that shows is the Big East, we’re not in a down year from last year,” he said. “I thought our team gave as good as an effort as we possibly could (against the Hoyas), and for them to come away with a win shows why they are the seventh team in the country.”
The Friars haven’t dropped five in a row since Jan. 23-Feb. 4, 2008.
Their only win in their last seven games did come against a ranked team, beating then-No. 19 Connecticut on Jan. 27, though the Huskies have since fallen out of the poll. Providence has lost 16 consecutive road games against Top 25 foes since a win at UConn on Jan. 24, 2004.
Jamine Peterson has been a bright spot for the Friars recently, averaging 24.0 points over the last six games after scoring 23 on Tuesday. The sophomore forward averages a team-high 18.9 points and his 10.0 rebounds per game rank third in the Big East.