Revenge game for Villanova in hostile environment

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Revenge game for Villanova in hostile environment

 Updated 4:30 p.m. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend’s local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

No. 1 Villanova (13-0, 1-0 Big East) at Butler (11-3, 1-0 Big East), Saturday at  4:00 p.m.
This marks the back end of a two-game road trip to begin Big East play for top-ranked Villanova. The Wildcats improved to 13-0 on the season with an impressive 103-85 win at DePaul on Wednesday. They flew directly from Chicago to Indianapolis, where they will visit Butler at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.

Villanova's offensive execution continues to be a thing of beauty — the Wildcats are averaging 95 points in their last three games. The performance against DePaul was particularly impressive. Seven Villanova players reached double figures, led by Mikal Bridges' 20 points. Jay Wright's team shot a collective 54 percent from the field, 48 percent from three-point range and had 23 assists on their 38 made field goals. The Wildcats share the ball as well as any team in the country.

From a big picture perspective, the play of freshman Jermaine Samuels was especially encouraging, but it was announced Friday that he suffered a fractured bone in his right hand during the game and will be out indefinitely. Samuels scored a career-high 11 points in 16 minutes. He was slow to find his footing early in the season, but Samuels was developing into a reliable contributor off the bench before the injury. 

"We're all very disappointed for Jermaine," Jay Wright said. "He has impressed our staff and his teammates with his intelligence, work ethic, and skills. It's taken him some time to adapt to our system but he's made great progress in the last few weeks, as we saw at DePaul. We know he'll work hard in his rehab to be ready for his return to the court."

This weekend the Wildcats return to the scene of their first loss of last season. Villanova was swept by Butler a year ago, including a 66-58 setback at Hinkle Fieldhouse that knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten. It was only the second time since the formation of the new Big East five years ago that an opponent swept Villanova in the regular season. Doug McDermott and Creighton also swept the Wildcats in 2014.

Wright typically has Villanova laser focused entering every game but the revenge factor will certainly add a little extra motivation. It also doesn't hurt that this isn't the same caliber of Butler team that we've seen the last handful of years. The Bulldogs needed a furious comeback in regulation and two overtimes to beat a rebuilding Georgetown team on Wednesday. Butler is in a transition year under new head coach LaVall Jordan, who replaced Chris Holtmann after Holtmann left for Ohio State last spring.

It's never easy to pick up a win at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The atmosphere should be electric with the No. 1 team in the country in town. But when push comes to shove, Villanova is a significantly better basketball team than Butler. The Wildcats will pull away in the second half and stay undefeated on the season. 

Villanova 81, Butler 66

Temple (7-5, 0-1 AAC) at Houston (11-2, 1-0 AAC), Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
 Starting the season with wins in four out of their first five games seems like a distant memory for Temple. In its place, a more recent memory of the struggles the Owls are going through. 

That was the case Thursday night when Fran Dunphy’s team opened American Conference play with a ten-point loss to Tulane at home. Dunphy is experimenting with some lineups and rotations in order to jump-start his Owls squad, but nothing seems to be working so far. And since winning four of the first five, Temple has only won three of its last seven games. The Owls trailed the entire game against Tulane and were unable to handle anything inside from the Green Wave. 

Houston will prove to be a formidable opponent for the Owls to try and bounce back against. The Cougars boast a potent scoring attack, averaging 81 points a game. They are paced by preseason first-team all-conference selection Rob Gray, who led the AAC in scoring last year. Gray averages just under 20 points a game and he’s joined by two others in the double-digit scoring average, Devin Davis and Corey Davis, and no they aren’t brothers. But those three are quite the triple threat for Kelvin Sampson. He also has two other players who are just off a 10-point average. Couple that scoring potential with the fact that Houston shoots over 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point land and it's easy to see why they are 11-2. 

I wish that a trip to a warmer climate would do wonders for the Owls. But the weather might be the only thing they enjoy on their visit to Houston. 

Houston 82, Temple 70

Toledo (7-5) at Pennsylvania (9-4), Friday at 4:00 p.m.
Don't look now but the Penn Quakers are picking up steam. They've won six of their last seven games including Wednesday's 105-52 drubbing of Delaware State. I wrote before the season in this column that I envision big things for this Penn team. The Quakers are starting to make that prognostication look spot-on with improved play on both ends of the floor. 

Friday's visit from Toledo will be Penn's final non-conference tune-up before Ivy League play begins next week against defending conference champion Princeton. I expect the Quakers to have a clear-cut advantage over Toledo. Penn sophomores Ryan Betley and AJ Brodeur will be the two best players on the floor. Betley and Brodeur complement each other perfectly, both playing a winning brand of basketball that will serve Penn well as conference play heats up over the coming months. 

Look for the Quakers to continue their upward trajectory and pick up their 10th win of the season at Toledo's expense on Friday. 

Penn 74, Toledo 63

St. Joseph's (5-6, 0-0 A-10) at George Washington (7-6, 0-0), Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
Could this be the game that star forward Charlie Brown makes his much-anticipated season debut for St. Joe's? Time will tell. Brown was scheduled to have his injured wrist examined Friday morning and if all goes well, he could be cleared to play in the Hawks' Atlantic 10 opener on Saturday. 

It's been a frustrating two months for Brown, who injured his wrist during preseason workouts in October. He is the best player on the St. Joe's roster and the Hawks have struggled to maintain any type of consistency early in the season without him. The start of conference play would be a terrific time for Brown to make his return.

With losses in three of their last four games, the Hawks find themselves one game below .500 on the season. They'll try to even up their record Saturday against a George Washington team with a 7-6 record. The Colonials tested themselves with a grueling non-conference schedule that included games against Florida State, Xavier, Kansas State and Miami.

George Washington is a solid team with the benefit of homecourt advantage on Saturday. If I knew for sure that Brown was playing, I'd be tempted to pick St. Joe's here. But considering the uncertainty over Brown's status, I'm going with GW.

George Washington 77, St. Joseph's 70 

St. Louis (7-6, 0-0 A-10) at La Salle (6-7, 0-0 A-10), Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
 La Salle opens up conference play after more than a week off during the holidays. And the break could be just what the Explorers need. They went into the layoff losing three of four and needed 95 points to take care of Mercer in the lone win during that span. A break can be a good thing or a bad thing, the old rust vs. rest adage. But I think for La Salle, it should help them regroup. Unfortunately, it didn’t help them get healthy. The team’s leading scorer B.J. Johnson, who was injured in the Mercer win, sat out the loss to Bucknell and is still listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury. He’s questionable to play against Saint Louis this weekend. 

The good news is that the Billikens could be a good team to host when you are not only looking for a win, but need to manage a short-handed lineup. Saint Louis has really struggled out of the gates, though they did pick up a nice win against Virginia Tech earlier this season. Despite the addition of Michigan State transfer Javon Bess, the Billikens only average about 65 points a game. However, though they don’t boast a regular player over 6’8”, the Billikens do rebound at a good rate, so La Salle will have to be mindful of crashing the boards and those all-important second-chance points. 

La Salle is a better scoring team, a better rebounding team, and has more size and talent. So judging from their season so far, they should lose this game. But I’m not ready to be negative Nancy just yet. 

Yes, Saint Louis is coached by former Kentucky point guard Travis Ford. Folks in Philadelphia will remember him kneeling in front of the bench during Christian Laettner’s shot at the Spectrum nearly 26 years ago. And yes, I think Ford can coach, proven at both Eastern Kentucky and Oklahoma State. But this one should be all La Salle. I’m going with the Explorers again, even though I think they’ve proved me wrong every time I’ve picked them this year. (And I sure did get a Kentucky mention in there. Sneaky, aren’t I?). 

La Salle 71, Saint Louis 66

Drexel (6-7, 0-0 CAA) at Elon (8-5, 0-0 CAA), Saturday at  2:00 p.m.
 Like La Salle, Drexel went into its holiday layover on a down note. The Dragons also had more than a week off after dropping three of their last four. But it was especially hard for the Dragons to swallow their latest loss. 

In the game against Loyola, a team who came in with just one win, Drexel took a one-point lead with just over three and a half minutes to play. But they only made one bucket from the field the rest of the game, certainly not a recipe for success. Zach Spiker is going to need a lot more from a veteran like Sammy Mojica. But Tremaine Isabell continues to be a revelation, with over 19 points per game and Kurk Lee is the Dragons most dynamic player. Watching Lee play, you just know he is capable of doing something impressive every time he touches the ball. But getting those touches continues to be a work in progress. 

The Dragons open up CAA play with a tough opponent in Elon. The Phoenix return all five starters from a season ago, one in which they won 18 games. Although Elon’s headliner coming into this season was second-team all-CAA selection Tyler Seibring, another junior has become the scoring threat for the Phoenix. Dainan Swoope averages just under 15 points a game while Seibring is a few points under his 14-point average from a season ago. 

Elon was picked third in the CAA preseason poll, but I expect them to contend with College of Charleston for the Conference crown.  

Elon 77, Drexel 62

Prediction Records
Sean Kane:
Amy Fadool: 6-9

No. 1 Villanova hands Georgetown worst loss in decades

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No. 1 Villanova hands Georgetown worst loss in decades


WASHINGTON -- After watching Villanova make 3-pointer after 3-pointer and build a hard-to-fathom lead -- 20, then 30, eventually all the way up to 44 -- Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing did not want to offer any sort of assessment about what this game indicates about his team's status in relation to the No. 1 Wildcats.


"I'm not even thinking about that," Ewing said. "All I'm thinking about is that they're a good team and tonight was their night. That's it."

Wright and Villanova gave Ewing a rude welcome back to the schools' rivalry, handing the Hoyas their worst loss in more than 40 years, 88-56 on Wednesday night.

"I've had my butt kicked before -- fortunately it was as a player -- and all I can do is get ready for the next one," Ewing said. "You can't dwell on it. Just got to look at the film and make adjustments and get ready for the next game."

Jalen Brunson led the way with 18 points and seven assists for Villanova (17-1, 5-1 Big East), which finished 17 for 33 on 3s, while Georgetown went 4 for 15.

Mikal Bridges scored 17 for the Wildcats, winners of seven consecutive games against the Hoyas, Villanova's longest streak in a series that dates to 1922.

"I'm just happy to be on this side of it. I've been on the other side. I feel for those guys, because we've been there," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

"Patrick's doing a great job with this program. They're very organized. They know what they want to do," Wright said. "And he's going to build this thing."

The last time Ewing faced Villanova in any capacity was in the last game of his college playing career at Georgetown, a surprising 66-64 victory for the underdog Wildcats in the 1985 NCAA championship game. It was quite clear, quite quickly, on Wednesday that there would be no such tight outcome --nor any chance of an upset by Georgetown (12-6, 2-5).

Villanova went on an 18-0 tear to go ahead 31-8 and that was that for any semblance of drama.

"This is our first game where we were just blown out from the beginning," said Jessie Govan, who led the Hoyas with 12 points.

Aided by a 1-2-2 press that Brunson said he thought "may have got to them a little bit," Villanova led 42-20 at halftime. Until then, Georgetown had more turnovers (nine) than made baskets, shooting 8 for 26, including 0 for 8 on 3s.

Asked about the 18-point run, Ewing replied: "I don't even remember."

This is his first season as a head coach at any level, and he opted to go with an easy-as-can-be non-conference schedule to try to build his players' confidence. Now that league play is underway, especially against a foe like Villanova, the gap between the Hoyas and the best teams is obvious.

Villanova just kept pushing the margin after the break, going up by 30, then 40, and then reaching the apex at 88-44 on a layup by Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree with about 3 minutes remaining. Less than a minute later, Wright finally sent on the subs and pulled any remaining starters.

"It's always fun," Brunson said, "when our team's making shots."

Big picture
Villanova: Since its only loss, 101-93 at Butler on Dec. 30, Villanova has won four games in a row, propelled by an efficient offense that gets a lot of its work done from beyond the arc.

Georgetown: This was the Hoyas' largest margin of defeat since a 33-point loss to Maryland, 104-71, on Dec. 10, 1974.

Injured and ill
Villanova: Collin Gillespie returned from a broken hand and had two points, three rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes. ... Reserves Tim Delaney and Jermaine Samuels sat out with a virus.

Georgetown: Backup PG Trey Dickerson left in the first half with a back spasm and did not return.

Up next
Villanova: Travels to UConn on Saturday in a matchup between former Big East rivals and the Wildcats' first game at Hartford in five years. Villanova is 12-0 in non-conference games heading into the last one on their schedule.

Georgetown: Hosts St. John's on Saturday, the teams' second meeting in less than two weeks. The Hoyas won 69-66 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 9.

Villanova aims to keep momentum after huge win

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Villanova aims to keep momentum after huge win

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend’s local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. Look for this column every Friday during college basketball season.

No. 1 Villanova (15-1, 3-1 Big East) at St. John's (10-7, 0-5), Saturday at 8 p.m.
: Top-ranked Villanova is coming off a surprisingly easy 89-65 win over No. 10 Xavier at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. The Wildcats turned in another stellar shooting display, connecting on better than 55 percent of their field goal attempts. More importantly, they clamped down defensively, holding Xavier to 65 points after allowing an average of 92 in their first three conference games.
Phil Booth was terrific in the victory with a career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting with four assists and four steals. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were their typical selves, combining for 32 points. But it's the emergence of Eric Paschall that's been the biggest development for Villanova on the offensive end of the floor. The junior forward had 14 points against Xavier and is averaging 16 per game in Big East play, shooting a blistering 73.3 percent from the field in the process. Paschall's turnaround from three-point range has been nothing short of remarkable. He made just one of his 25 three-point attempts over the first 13 games of the season. Then he somehow turned into Ray Allen from long range, knocking down six of seven attempts in the last three games.
Now the Wildcats hit the road for their next three games beginning with Saturday night's visit to St. John's in Manhattan. After a promising start in non-conference play, the Red Storm has struggled mightily against Big East competition. They are 0-5 in league play and to make matters worse, they just lost one of their best players for the remainder of the season. Guard Marcus Lovett has been sidelined with a knee injury for the last 10 games and earlier this week the school announced he won't play again this season.
St. John's head coach Chris Mullin is steering his team through choppy waters. A visit from Villanova is the last thing he needs right now. The Red Storm always gets up to play Villanova at Madison Square Garden. But the Wildcats always have more than their share of supporters at MSG as well. I'd be surprised if Villanova doesn't take care of business against a reeling St. John's team.
Villanova 82, St. John's 65
Cornell (6-7, 0-0 Ivy) at Penn (10-5, 1-0), Friday at 8 p.m.
Columbia (3-10, 0-0 Ivy) at Penn (10-5, 1-0), Saturday at 7 p.m.
: Not since the 2005-2006 season have the Quakers started a season like this, reaching the 10-win point before mid-January. Penn opened up Ivy League play with an impressive win over Princeton, their fifth win in their last six games. Next up for Steve Donahue’s team is the weekend slate of Cornell and Columbia.
It’s actually a doubleheader with the men’s and women’s teams, playing back to back on Friday and again on Saturday. The reason for it? Princeton, Penn’s travel partner, has exams next weekend and petitioned the league for both their men’s and women’s teams stay home this weekend. To study. For exams. In the middle of the season. And that is how you know you’re in the Ivy. The league agreed and the doubleheader was booked.
Penn scores just over 79 points a game, best in the Ivy, and is also one of the best defensive teams in the conference. They’ll have their hands full though with Cornell’s Matt Morgan, who's fourth in the nation in scoring with 25 points per game and averages an eye-popping 51 percent shooting from the field.
But I think this is a great way for Penn to start Ivy play 3-0 and sweep the weekend.
Penn 80, Cornell 76
Penn, 85, Columbia 70

Saint Joseph’s (7-8, 2-2 A-10) at Massachusetts (9-8, 2-2), Sunday at 5 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
: As soon as St. Joe's thinks it's back on track, something comes and snatches that feeling away. It’s mostly happened because of injuries, but their most recent heartbreaker came in the form of a last-second loss to George Mason. Otis Livingston buried a deep three-pointer with one tick left on the clock to beat St. Joe’s by two.
The Hawks should try to focus on conference wins over VCU and St. Bonaventure last week to get that bad taste out of their mouths. Those two wins over teams above them in the standings could be a better barometer of the potential of Phil Martelli’s team.
This one could go either way and the last time I picked against St. Joe's they beat the Bonnies. But that was at home, road games are a different animal.
UMass 77, St. Joseph’s 76
Memphis (11-6, 2-2 AAC) at Temple (8-8, 1-4), Saturday at 2 p.m.
: There are desperately needed wins, then there's Temple last-second 66-64 victory at SMU on Wednesday that snapped a five-game losing streak. The Owls needed to stop the bleeding and senior guard Josh Brown did just that, delivering the game-winner with 1.5 seconds left. It marked Temple's first AAC win of the season and could serve as a springboard with four of the Owls' next five conference games being played in the familiar confines of the Liacouras Center.
We'll find out if the Owls can harness any momentum Saturday afternoon against Memphis. The Tigers are a team Temple needs to beat if they have any designs of turning their season around. More consistent performances from Quinton Rose would go a long way in helping the Owls find their way. Rose erupted for 23 points against SMU after scoring four points combined in Temple's previous two games.
I'm not ready to give up on Temple just yet. I have faith in Fran Dunphy coaxing some more steady efforts from his team. Look for the Owls to collect a second straight win against Memphis on Saturday. 
Temple 68, Memphis 62
La Salle (7-10, 1-3 A-10) at Duquesne (12-5, 3-1), Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
: The Explorers are struggling right now at the start of conference play, having just dropped their third straight with an overtime loss to UMass. However, in that span, they’ve had the services of the A-10’s leading scorer B.J. Johnson only once. The senior only played in the loss to VCU but not against Rhode Island or the Minutemen.
La Salle is hoping Johnson is back for their road game this weekend against the surprising Dukes. Duquesne was picked dead last in the conference preseason poll but are currently sitting in second in the standings right behind Rhode Island. A big reason for their success is Rene Castro-Caneddy, the graduate student who nearly transferred after riding the bench for two seasons. But first-year head coach Keith Dambrot is glad the 24-year-old stayed. Castro-Caneddy has started every game this season, averaging a career-high 13.6 and racking up a team-best 56 assists. He’s reached double-figures in all four conference games, all but one of them a win.
Duquesne has an eight-game winning streak at home. It’s hard to pick against that, especially if Johnson is out for La Salle.
Duquesne 74, La Salle 70
Hofstra (10-7, 3-2 CAA) at Drexel (7-11, 1-4), Saturday at 4 p.m.
: After finishing with a 9-23 record in Zach Spiker's first year as head coach, Drexel has shown occasional signs of improvement this season. That growth was plain to see during last Friday's surprising win at College of Charleston. The Dragons failed to build on that victory, dropping their last two games against William & Mary and Delaware.
Drexel is a balanced offensive team that has been bolstered by the play of junior guard Tramaine Isabell, a transfer from Missouri who is averaging a team-high 18.2 points per game. The Dragons have shown the ability to score, it's their effort on the defensive end that's been questionable. They're allowing an average of 87 points in the last five games. 
I expect an inspired effort from the Dragons but I can't see them getting enough stops to pull out the win.
Hofstra 76, Drexel 70
Prediction records
Sean Kane: 13-7
Amy Fadool: 8-13