Villanova will be searching for its sixth consecutive victory when it hosts Providence on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
The No. 12 Wildcats improved to 22-6 overall and 11-4 in the Big East following a gritty 71-60 win over St. John’s on Wednesday.
Saddiq Bey scored 23 points, Justin Moore contributed 21, Jermaine Samuels swept 10 rebounds and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl made a number of huge plays late in the game to finish with seven points and eight rebounds.
“I’m happy,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said after the win. “I know it was ugly but St. John’s deserves a lot of credit. They’re in the top five in the country in turning teams over. You know that’s what it’s going to be. We finished with 13 turnovers, had nine at halftime. It’s just what they do.
“No matter how hard you try to prepare, they’re good at it. We survived, we learn from it and we move on.”
Though the Wildcats came up with another win, it was far from easy. But nothing ever comes easy in the Big East, one of the toughest conferences in the country.
Villanova came out aggressive after halftime and did enough to extend its winning streak, impressive for a young team that features no scholarship seniors.
“We had a 13-point lead in the first half and we just got into a funk offensively,” Wright said. “We missed a couple of free throws. They make you tentative. We were attacking the basket hard, making extra passes but then we got tentative.”
Villanova will be attempting to sweep the regular season series against the Friars, having won, 64-60, on Jan. 25 in Providence.
Providence has been surging recently with three straight wins to move to 16-12 overall and 9-6 in the Big East.
The last three victories have come against Seton Hall, Georgetown and Marquette.
The Friars ousted Marquette 84-72 last Saturday, thanks in large part to 24 points from Luwane Pipkins. David Duke added 15 and A.J. Reeves had 11 as six Friars reached double figures.
Providence has won four wins this season over ranked teams.
“I’m very proud of our group,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “I’m proud of our maturity and our ability to deal with adversity.”
Pipkins had a sore back before the season started and it has taken several months for him to mesh with the team. Now, Pipkins and the four other seniors are jelling at just the right time as the calendar is ready to flip to March.
“It’s our first year working [with Pipkins] and it’s taken us a good amount of time to understand each other and where we want to get the ball,” senior Kalif Young told the Providence Journal. “It’s a long road and it comes fast and we’re down to a stretch now where it counts even more. We have to step up and take the extra step forward.”
Senior Alpha Diallo, who was the Big East Player of the Week on Feb. 17, has nine double-doubles this season.
–Field Level Media