Seton Hall visits Villanova in Big East fracas

Villanova, PA ( - Seeking revenge for one of their two losses this season, the Villanova Wildcats play host to the Seton Hall Pirates in a Big East Conference clash at the Pavilion on Monday night.

The two teams enter the contest on very different trajectories, as Seton Hall has lost its last four bouts, while Villanova is riding a six-game win streak.

The Pirates handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season at home back on Jan. 3 in a 66-61 final in overtime, but have won only three of their 11 games since. A 69-62 setback at Providence on Saturday was their most recent disappointment, and they will be trying to win a true road game for only the fourth time in 10 opportunities this evening.

Villanova took down another ranked foe in Butler over the weekend, winning 68-65 in Indianapolis to improve to 23-2 overall and 10-2 in conference. As a result, the Wildcats are off to their best 25-game start, and now have a two- game lead in the race for the Big East title. A win tonight would make VU 15-0 at home this season.

Villanova owns a 65-39 lead in the all-time series with Seton Hall, and the loss to the Pirates last month dropped coach Jay Wright's record against SHU to 12-5.

Isaiah Whitehead poured in 20 points, but his effort wasn't flawless, and neither was the team's in Seton Hall's seven-point loss at Providence on Valentine's Day. Whitehead went just 7-of-17 from the floor, and he was credited with six of the team's 19 turnovers. Sterling Gibbs tallied 12 points and Angel Delgado grabbed 15 rebounds for the Pirates, who made good on only 36.5 percent of their field goal attempts, missing the mark on 12 of their 17 3-point tries in the process. Despite allowing a combined 41 points to PC's LaDonate Henton and Kris Dunn, Seton Hall (15-10, 5-8 Big East) did play solid defense in holding the Friars to 38.1 percent shooting efficiency, which included a dismal 4-of-15 showing from beyond the arc.

Gibbs (16.9 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Whitehead (12.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg) are the only two SHU players currently averaging double digits in the scoring column, as the team itself generates 69.5 ppg in hitting 35 percent of its long-range launches. By comparison, opponents are shooting only 26.3 percent from distance and netting 65.8 ppg. The Pirates are narrowly winning the battle on the boards (+1.4). and they are dead even in the turnover department (12.5 tpg).

Darrun Hilliard was the guy that got Villanova over the hump in Saturday's tough road game at Butler, as he went off for 31 points thanks to a sizzling 8-of-13 shooting effort from 3-point range. Hilliard, who also came up with roughly a third of Villanova's rebounds (8-of-25), nearly tripled the scoring output of his closest teammate, as JayVaughn Pinkston finished with 12 points. The Wildcats shot 46 percent from the field, draining a dozen treys, and they went 10-of-13 at the foul line. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were 41.2 percent successful both from the floor overall and beyond the arc, and they too were efficient at the charity stripe, converting 16-of-19 attempts.

As a result of Saturday's outstanding performance, Hilliard saw his team-high scoring average climb to 14.1 ppg. Ryan Arcidiacono (10.0 ppg, 3.7 apg) is the only other double-digit scorer at the moment for coach Wright's squad, which features a balanced attack that few foes can rival. In all, six players, including all five starters, net at least 9.0 ppg, and Daniel Ochefu is high man on the glass with 8.3 rpg. Collectively, Villanova puts up 74.5 ppg while allowing just 60.4 ppg, and the 'Cats also own favorable margins in both rebounding (+2.0) and turnovers (+3.4).