Dec. 31, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The BIG EAST season opens for Villanova on Wednesday night when the Wildcats host St. John's (8-4 overall, 0-0 BIG EAST) at the Pavilion. The contest tips at 8:05 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPNU. It can also be heard on the radio at 610 WIP.
"As a coaching staff, we feel like we've learned a lot about this group in the pre-season and are excited to get started in BIG EAST play," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright.
After winning four of its first eight contests in 2012-13, Villanova has captured its last five games in a row and brings a 9-4 overall mark into league play. The Wildcats have established a dependable nine-man rotation that features a trio of double-figure scorers in sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston (12.2 ppg), freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono (11.5 ppg) and junior James Bell (10.7 ppg).
"I think the BIG EAST is going to be the same for us in that we are going to have to keep getting better every game," noted Wright. "I do think we have gotten a lot better offensively in terms of taking care of the basketball, even though we had 19 turnovers against Monmouth in a high-volume kind of game.
"As a coach, I always feel better when you get to BIG EAST games. You know you don't have to convince these guys to be ready to play. When you have an older team, you don't have to worry about that. But when you have a younger team, sometimes they don't understand how important every game is. I think our Columbia game was like that. When you get to the BIG EAST as a coach, it's kind of pure. It's just basketball."
The Wildcats defeated St. John's 79-76 a year ago at Madison Square Garden in overtime. D'Angelo Harrion of the Red Storm led all scorers with 28 points.
"D'Angelo Harrison is as good a guard as there is in the BIG EAST," noted Wright. "He really hurt us last year."
Wright points to the turnover column as a key in this matchup.
"We need to take care of the basketball," Wright stated. "St. John's is very aggressive defensively and has great athletes that can turn mistakes into points at the other end if you turn it over."
To Wright, the key to the upcoming stretch of 18 league regulars season games is continuing to see progress.
"I think this group has tremendous room for improvement, I really do," he states. "They are very coachable in practice. I look forward to the BIG EAST.
"Our guys have gone through a lot in the pre-season. They've gone through tough games on the road. They've gone through games where we didn't make shots. I think we've improved a lot. I think we're ready for the BIG EAST. We're going to have to keep getting better throughout the BIG EAST season to be good in our conference."