Newark, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - The eighth-ranked Villanova Wildcats head up the New Jersey Turnpike to tangle with the Seton Hall Pirates in Big East Conference action from the Prudential Center.
Villanova is off to a tremendous start, logging a 13-1 overall record, which includes a 2-0 mark in the new-look Big East. The Wildcats' lone setback of the season came against former conference rival Syracuse on Dec. 28 (78-62), and the team has bounced back since by winning two straight over Butler (76-73 in OT) and Providence (91-61).
Seton Hall hasn't had nearly the same success as its counterpart tonight, but the team is still enjoying a favorable run through the first two months, logging a 10-5 overall mark, which includes a 1-1 start to Big East play. The Pirates recently had a three-game win streak halted by the visiting Creighton Bluejays this past Saturday (79-66), which dropped the team to 7-3 in home bouts this season.
Villanova owns a 64-38 lead in the all-time series with Seton Hall, and the team have met every year since 1947. The Pirates won the most recent meeting, 66-65, last February, snapping a 10-game losing streak to the Wildcats in the process.
Villanova is getting it done at both ends of the court this season, putting up 81.2 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .458 overall and .341 from beyond the arc, while allowing just 65.4 ppg, with foes hitting only 38.7 percent of their total shots, including 33.7 percent of their long-range launches. The Wildcats goad the opposition into more than 16 turnovers per outing, while laying claim to a +5.1 rebounding differential. The team boasts three double- digit scorers in JayVaughn Pinkston (16.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), James Bell (14.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Darrun Hilliard (13.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), with three others netting between 8.7 and 9.6 ppg.
Villanova hammered visiting Providence on Sunday night, draining 14 3-pointers en route to a 30-point victory. It was the fourth time this season the Wildcats reached or exceeded the 90-point mark, and the team as a whole shot 59.6 percent from the field while holding the Friars to just 35.3 percent. Pinkston paced the 'Cats with 19 points and seven rebounds, while reserve Dylan Ennis hit four treys on his way to 17 points. Hilliard tallied 15 points and Josh Hart chipped in 10 for Villanova, which forced 17 turnovers and used a massive 38-4 edge in bench points to help claim the easy win.
Seton Hall has done a solid job scoring this season, averaging 78.2 ppg in hitting 45.2 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 34.7 percent effort from 3-point land. Unfortunately, the team's defensive effort has been lax at times, with opponents using the long ball (.376 from 3-point range) to help it muster up 71.9 ppg. Sterling Gibbs (15.9 ppg, 3.8 apg) sits atop SHU's scoring list, and four others are also averaging double figures, doing so between 10.1 and 12.2 ppg. Eugene Teague (10.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is actually close to averaging a double-double, but he is dealing with a concussion right now so his status for this contest is in question.
It wasn't for a lack of efficiency that Seton Hall fell to Creighton the last time out, as the club shot 45.2 percent from the field compared to 46.3 percent by the visitors. The Pirates also logged a substantial 20-7 edge in points from the foul line while committing only seven turnovers. Unfortunately for them, they attempted 25 fewer shots, were credited with 12 fewer field goals, and lost the rebounding battle by a 38-27 margin. Gibbs led the team with 17 points, while Brian Oliver tacked on 12 and Patrik Auda had 10. Creighton's Doug McDermott led all scorers with 30 points, while also grabbing 10 rebounds and handing out five assists in what was another dominating effort by one of the nation's premier players.