Newark, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - Seeking their second straight win over a ranked opponent to open Big East Conference play, the Seton Hall Pirates entertain the sixth-ranked Villanova Wildcats on Saturday afternoon.
At 13-0, Villanova has matched the best start in program history, and the team recently achieved that feat by upending visiting Butler (67-55) in the conference opener for both clubs on New Year's Eve. The victory improved the Wildcats to 9-0 at home, and this is the first of two straight the team will play on the road, the next being at St. John's next Tuesday.
Seton Hall knocked off No. 15 St. John's in its league lid lifter this past Wednesday as well, 78-67. The triumph improved the team's overall record to 11-2, and it has won two straight since suffering a 65-47 loss at Georgia on Dec. 21. The Pirates are 7-0 at home this season.
Villanova leads the all-time series with Seton Hall, 65-38, but it was the Pirates who claimed victory in the most recent encounter, bouncing the Wildcats from the 2014 Big East Tournament in a 64-63 final.
Ryan Arcidiacono scored 15 points and handed out five assists to help lead Villanova to its double-digit win over Butler in the Big East opener a few days ago. JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 points, Kris Jenkins came off the bench to chip in 11, and Daniel Ochefu nearly had a double-double as he finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats, who shot 47.9 percent from the floor, despite hitting only 5-of-20 3-point attempts. They were also inconsistent at the foul line (16-of-26), but committed only eight turnovers while holding the Bulldogs to 35.5 percent field goal efficiency, allowing them to attempt a mere eight foul shots, and goading them into 14 miscues. Villanova won the game despite coming up well short in the rebounding battle, 40-29.
Balance has been the key to Villanova's success on offense this season, the team boasting four double-digit scorers, with only two points separating the highest (Darrun Hilliard, 12.3 ppg) from the lowest (Josh Hart, 10.3 ppg). Ochefu pulls down 7.5 rpg to spearhead the team's overall effort on the glass, which comes in nearly three rpg more than the opposition. As a collective unit, the Wildcats are scoring 77.1 ppg while allowing only 58.9 ppg, and they are curtailing the enemy's success from long range by permitting only 29.1 percent of their 3-point launches to find the bottom of the net.
Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina combined to go 9-of-15 from 3-point range in helping lead Seton Hall to its recent win over St. John's. Gibbs finished with a 25 points and a career-high eight assists, while Sina added 14 points for the Pirates, who made good on 46 percent of their field goal attempts while converting 22-of-31 free throws. Brandon Mobley (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Angel Delgado (13 points, 12 boards) both logged double-doubles in the victory. Both teams did a solid job protecting the basketball, combining for fewer than 20 turnovers.
Gibbs has proven himself to be one of the more prolific scorers in the Big East to this point, as he is shooting 48.9 percent from the floor overall and 53.3 percent from beyond the arc in netting 16.3 ppg. He also paces the Pirates with 48 assists and 16 steals, and he gets help at the offensive end from Mobley (10.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Delgado (8.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg). Collectively, SHU is amassing 72.2 ppg while giving up just 60.8 ppg, and the Pirates own favorable margins in both rebounding (+3.4) and turnovers (+0.7) as well.