TV: Fox Sports (Gus Johnson, Jim Jackson and Shannon Spake)
Radio: 610 Sports Radio (Ryan Fannon and Whitey Rigsby)
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – A major intersectional test is up next for the No. 1/2 Villanova Wildcats. On Sunday, Villanova (19-2 overall, 7-2 BIG EAST) host No. 12/13 Virginia (16-3 overall, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) at the Wells Fargo Center.
The game is sold out and the Nova Nation is encouraged to wear white shirts for a planned "White Out" of the Center.
“We have such great respect for Virginia and the program Tony (Bennett) has put together,” stated head coach Jay Wright following a Friday morning practice session on the court at the Center. “Virginia values the same things our program does and we know this will be a great test against an outstanding opponent.”
These two teams met last season in Charlottesville, Va., on Dec. 19. And despite absorbing an 86-75 loss on an afternoon when Kris Jenkins scored 23 points, Wright believes the lessons from that day helped boost the Wildcats in a 2015-16 campaign that ended with an NCAA national championship four months later.
“I’m not sure we got more out of any game we played last year than we did that one,” stated Wright.
Though a few of the key pieces for both teams have moved on, a lot of familiar faces are back for the rematch too. On the Wildcats side, that includes returning starters Jenkins, Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson. Senior London Perrantes (12.1 ppg) is back for the Cavaliers after scoring 19 points in last year’s meeting at John Paul Jones Arena.
The Cavaliers are a stingy defensive unit that comes to Philadelphia off an impressive road win at Notre Dame in which they limited the potent Fighting Irish to 54 points.
“There’s really no way to simulate Virginia’s discipline, length and athleticism,” noted Wright. “They do such a good job of recovering on defense that even when a shooter feels like he has an open look, they can get out to really make it a challenging shot.”
The Wildcats are looking to rebound after falling to Marquette 74-72 on Tuesday night, after holding a 68-55 lead with 6:43 to play in the second half. VU connected on just 6-of-34 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc (.176), its lowest percentage from beyond the arc in a game this season.
“It’s always ‘next game’ for us,” Wright stated. “We watched the film and have worked hard in practice to get better these last couple of days. We know what a great challenge Virginia is going to present Sunday.”
Sunday will feature the annual “Suits and Sneakers” with both coaching staffs sporting athletic footwear along with their suits to support the fight against cancer. Also, at halftime, Villanova will honor the 2017 inductees into the Varsity Club Hall of Fame. Among the honorees is former Wildcats head coach Steve Lappas, who won 174 games in nine seasons at Villanova from 1992-2001, including the 1994 National Invitation Tournament and 1995 BIG EAST Tournament titles.