VILLANOVA, Pa. – After making strides at the defensive end in a pair of home court wins over Marquette and Xavier, Villanova returns to BIG EAST action on Saturday night against St. John’s (10-7 overall, 0-5 BIG EAST). The Wildcats, who rose to the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls on Monday, bring a 15-1 overall, 3-1 BIG EAST record into Saturday night’s clash with the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden.
This game will air nationally on the Fox Business Network. FBN is channel 359 on DirecTV, channel 206 on DISH.It is also available on the Comcast and Verizon systems – check your channel guide. Aaron Goldsmith and Len Elmore will be at the microphone for Fox while Ryan Fanon and Whitey Rigsby will call the action on 610 Sports Radio.
Villanova is no stranger to Madison Square Garden. It defeated Gonzaga there on Dec. 9 88-72 in the Jimmy V Classic and was 4-0 at the World’s Most Famous Arena in 2016-17, with two wins over St. John’s (one in the regular season and a second in the BIG EAST Tournament quarterfinal on Mar. 9).
On Wednesday night the Wildcats were in top form, posting an 89-65 win over No. 10 Xavier at the Wells Fargo Center.
“That may have been one of our best defensive games against a high-quality opponent,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who now is 12 victories shy of Alexander Severance’s program best mark of 413 Villanova victories. “I thought we had some good defensive games earlier in the schedule but we may not have had the toughest non-conference schedule.
“To play that well defensively against a great team like Xavier was really important for us. We still have some strides to make defensively and with our rebounding.”
On Thursday Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were both named to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list. And juniors Phil Booth – 21 points against Xavier and Eric Paschall – have played some of their best basketball since BIG EAST play began in the final week of December.
St. John’s dropped a 69-66 decision to Georgetown on Tuesday night at the Garden and has been dealing with a slew of injuries, including one to sophomore guard Marcus LoVett. LoVett has been out with a knee injury.
“The Johnnies were off to a great start before being decimated by injuries,” noted Wright. “Now I think that they have come back around and are learning how to play without LoVett. They’ve lost some close games without him but have been right there at the end in a position to win. I think they are as dangerous a team as there is in our conference.”
There have been some explosive offensive performances in the BIG EAST this season and it was for that reason that, though concerned, the Wildcats have taken a balanced view of some of their defensive challenges early in conference play.
“We weren’t overreacting to our defensive struggles because we know how potent these teams are,” stated Wright. “You look at these teams and they are so explosive. Even in the Marquette game, we gave up 90 points and we didn’t really do a bad job defensively, though I know that sounds odd. Marquette is just explosive and so many teams are.
“That’s just part of being in this league.”
This game kicks off a stretch of three straight on the road for the Wildcats, who travel to Georgetown on Wednesday night for their first look at the Hoyas under new coach Patrick Ewing (6:30 p.m/FS1 and 610 Sports Radio).
The 2017-18 Villanova Basketball season is presented by KeyBank.