Villanova will look for its third straight win in Big 5 action when it hosts rival Saint Joseph’s on Saturday in a matchup known as the “Holy War.”
The No. 6-ranked Wildcats (5-2) defeated La Salle 72-46 last Sunday and followed with a 71-56 victory over Penn Wednesday in Philadelphia.
Collin Gillespie led the Wildcats with a season-high 26 points as they held off the Quakers down the stretch. Brandon Slater added 16 points and Villanova pulled out another difficult win against a city rival.
“I was proud of our guys’ mental toughness,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Every time we thought we had a chance to break it open, they hit tough shots. We didn’t break either. It was an ugly game but it’s good when you can win those.”
Villanova had a difficult time finding open shots for long stretches against Penn. Expect St. Joseph’s (4-3) to come prepared with a similar game plan since coach Billy Lange is a former Villanova assistant under Wright.
The Hawks will look for their third straight win on Saturday.
St. Joseph’s defeated Georgetown 70-55 last Friday and followed with a 79-57 victory over Binghamton on Wednesday.
Jordan Hall posted his third double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds vs. Binghamton, while Ejike Obinna added 14 points.
Villanova has won the last nine meetings against the Hawks, including an 88-68 victory last season.
After a difficult transition in the first two seasons, Lange is off to a solid start in 2021-22.
The Hawks were 6-26 two seasons ago and 5-15 last year in a COVID-shortened season.
“We have a lot of guys that are fighting for minutes,” Lange said. “To me the thing that’s been the most inspiring has been the competition level.”
“I just think everyone’s very hungry,” St. Joe’s forward Taylor Funk said. “Bringing these new players in here just shows the competitive nature every single day in practice.”
Funk has been named Big 5 Player of the Week twice this season and leads the Hawks in scoring at 17.4 points per game.
St. Joe’s has shown impressive balance through the first seven games. More than that, the players are competing at the level Lange demands.
“I believe that when we step on that floor, you’re going to have to kill us to beat us,” Lange said.
–Field Level Media