A lengthy on-campus winning streak combined with a successful past against Cincinnati is not enough to make Villanova coach Jay Wright feel comfortable about his team's next matchup.
Wright expects a serious challenge Sunday when the seventh-ranked Wildcats try to continue their dominance at The Pavilion against the undefeated No. 24 Bearcats.Villanova (13-1, 2-0 Big East) is 5-1 all-time against Cincinnati and trying to extend its winning streak at its on-campus arena to 45, but Wright is still concerned about the Bearcats' visit."You've got a team coming in that knows how to win. And they're expecting to come in and win," Wright said. "We know it's going to be a battle."Anyone in this league can beat you. It comes down to your players understanding that, and demanding that. That's really important."The Wildcats will be looking for a ninth straight victory since losing 78-68 to Tennessee in the final of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 26. The Bearcats (15-0, 2-0), meanwhile, try to open with 16 straight victories for the first time since starting 19-0 in 1962-63.After a 66-46 rout of city rival Xavier on Thursday, Cincinnati has plenty of momentum entering its biggest test of the season to date."I have confidence in my team," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told the school's official website. "If we just stay poised, we have a good team. That's all I've been trying to say to these guys."Though the Bearcats beat DePaul and Seton Hall at home by a combined 33 points to open league play, Cronin knows most of the Big East schedule won't be so easy."I try to make sure we are ready every game because we are in the Big East," said Cronin, who has Cincinnati in position to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. "If you aren't ready to play on game night in the Big East, you won't win. You have to compete every night or you won't compete for the championship."Cronin hopes for another strong defensive effort from a squad that ranks among the nation's leaders with 53.8 points allowed per contest.That defense will be tested by a Villanova offense which is averaging 80.0 points over its last six games, including an 83-71 victory at South Florida on Thursday.Senior guard Corey Stokes scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half and Dominic Cheek added 17 off the bench as the Wildcats shot a season-high 58.3 percent. The two guards combined to go 9 for 9 from 3-point range.Stokes (17.3 points per game) has averaged 22.0 points on 25-of-44 shooting in his last four games."I always think every shot I take is going to go in," Stokes said. "My teammates feel the same way."Stokes had 14 points off the bench in last season's 77-73 road victory over the Bearcats.Cincinnati junior Yancy Gates, who had 13 points in that contest, finished with a season-high 22 and 14 rebounds against Xavier. The 6-foot-9 Yates is averaging 16.0 points in his last four games.