Seton Hall-Villanova Preview

The Associated PressFebruary 7, 2014

Villanova's preparation for Seton Hall this week has been a bit abbreviated. With a campus power outage and the area struggling through a crippling winter storm, the team has practiced in dark gyms and missed out on film sessions.

The good news for the sixth-ranked Wildcats is power has been restored on campus and the game will go on as scheduled Friday night as they looks for a 12th straight home win against the Pirates.

"It's back to basics," coach Jay Wright told the school's official website. "We haven't had power so we haven't been able to sit in film. But I think it's been productive and it's been all basketball. We got to spend some time together as a team."

The Wildcats (20-2, 8-1 Big East) and Pirates (13-9, 4-5) are both coming off wins against the same opponent. Villanova earned an 81-58 home win over Xavier on Monday after Seton Hall ended Xavier's 13-game home winning streak Saturday with a 68-60 victory.

"The fact that we went in there and won, it just shows a lot about our team and the fact that we're able to go on the road and win in a big Big East environment," Seton Hall leading scorer Sterling Gibbs said.

Beating a ranked opponent is something the Pirates haven't been able to do in more than a year. They're 0-10 against the Top 25 since the start of the 2013 calendar year.

For Villanova, the 23-point victory was its fourth straight and has it tied with Creighton atop the Big East standings. James Bell had 27 points and eight rebounds, bumping his average to 23.0 points during the Wildcats' four-game winning streak and a team-high 15.8 for the season.

"I told him, 'This is your team, man. And look what they're doing,'" Wright said of his lone senior starter.

What they've done is reached 20 wins at the second-fastest point in program history after the 2009-10 team opened 20-1.

"Everything's pretty much on me, good or bad," said Bell, who scored 21 second-half points against Xavier. "I think they respect me for it and that makes us a better team."

The guard wasn't quite as imposing in the first meeting with Seton Hall. Bell scored nine points on just 2-of-5 shooting, but the Wildcats still left Seton Hall with an 83-67 victory on Jan. 8 - their 11th in the series' last 12 games.

Backcourt mate Darrun Hilliard led Villanova with 19 against a Pirates team missing starters Fuquan Edwin and Eugene Teague - two of its top four scorers - due to injuries.

Edwin, second behind Gibbs (14.4) with 14.3 points per game, has been strong since returning to the starting lineup on Jan. 18 against Georgetown. He led the Pirates with 18 points against Xavier and is averaging 20.8 in five straight starts.

Still, Seton Hall is 3-3 since the last meeting with Villanova as it struggles to gain footing in the Big East.

"I think everyone's really focused right now," said freshman guard Jaren Sina, who scored 12 points off the bench against Xavier. "We know obviously it's crunch time in the Big East, and we've just got to continue to get focused. We really need these wins badly."

Seton Hall hasn't won at Villanova since Feb. 26, 1994.