Villanova is off to their best start in four years, and a meeting with struggling Saint Joseph's may only add to it.
The intracity rivals meet Wednesday night when the third-ranked Wildcats look to continue their dominance in the Big 5.The Wildcats (8-0) haven't won their first nine games of a season since opening 10-0 in 2005-06 en route to the regional final of the NCAA tournament.They can get closer to that mark Wednesday by beating the Hawks (3-4), another Philadelphia rival that competes annually for bragging rights.Villanova has won 20 of 21 meetings against Big 5 opponents Saint Joseph's, La Salle, Temple and Pennsylvania. The team has already beaten La Salle and Penn this season after winning all four games in 2008-09.The Wildcats' lone recent loss to a Big 5 opponent came against the Hawks at The Palestra, 77-55 on Feb. 4, 2008. However, they took last season's meeting 59-56 on Dec. 11 to win for the ninth time in 12 matchups.Villanova also holds a 42-24 advantage in the all-time series with Saint Joseph's.The Wildcats are entering this matchup coming off an impressive 3-point shooting display in Sunday's 95-86 win over Maryland. They set a team record by attempting 39 shots from behind the arc, making 16 to fall one short of that mark."We give our guys a lot of freedom shooting the ball," coach Jay Wright said.Scottie Reynolds is looking to improve upon his season-high 25 points after totaling 28 over the previous two games.The senior guard leads the team with an average of 15.3 points, and had 18 points in last season's win over Saint Joseph's.The Hawks, who went 1-6 in Big 5 games in 2008-09, are looking to snap a four-game slide after falling 78-66 at Cornell on Sunday. They last dropped five in a row from Feb. 12-26."We have a tough time right now stopping the boulder coming at you," coach Phil Martelli said. "We're not able yet to do that. That's going to take every guy stepping up and giving it more of a mental approach."Saint Joseph's could use some improved play from guard Darrin Govens, who leads the team with 12.1 points per game.The senior scored 10 points against the Big Red but made only 1 of 7 shots. He's struggled over the last four games, shooting 31.3 percent to average 9.8 points after scoring 15.3 per game in the first three games -- all wins.Govens, though, had 18 points on 6 for 15 shooting in the last meeting with Villanova.The Hawks have lost four in a row to Top 25 opponents, including an 85-60 loss to then-No. 7 Purdue on Nov. 22 to start their current losing streak.