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Villanova Basketball: Keys to Victory Vs. St Joes

The number of SJU (PA) wins in the last 5 games against Villanova. - Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The #14 (8-0) Villanova Wildcats will head to Hagan Arena on Saturday to take on the (4-3) St. Joseph’s Hawks. The game will be aired on CBS Sports Network at 6PM.

The schools are only 6.4 miles apart and it is one of the biggest rivalries in the Big 5. The "Holy War" as they like to call it, got even more intense last year when Halil Kanacevic flipped off the student section and created some buzz inside the Pavilion. Villanova won a thriller as James "big shot" Bell hit a game winning 3-pointer from the left wing.

Villanova has to look to play better on Saturday than they did against Big 5 opponent Penn Wednesday night. The 'Cats were feeling pretty good about themselves as they went in to halftime up 18. The second half was a totally different story. They missed their first 14 shots and only made four field goals the whole second half. The difference in that game was the free throw discrepancy. Villanova took 40 free throws as opposed to Penn's 11. They outscored Penn by 20 on free throws alone which was the main reason they were able to win by 23.

However, St Joe’s is much superior to Penn, and if the Wildcats play like they did vs Penn, they could be in for a LONG night.

Keys to Victory

First True Road Game for Villanova

Big 5 games always bring out the best of the fans. Villanova is going to play in front of a rowdy crowd of 4,200 fans. When Creighton visited Hagan Arena earlier this season, senior forward Doug McDermott said it was the toughest place he has ever played at.

It will be interesting to see how Villanova reacts to the noise. In 2011, they did not handle it well at all, resulting in a 74-58 loss. Hopefully, Jay Wright has learned from that. He has to prepare and tell his guys they are going into a very loud, hostile environment and it will be like nothing they have seen yet this year.

"You can never tell how intense it's going to be," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "You just know the intensity is going to be up there. It's St. Joe-Villanova - there's nothing like it in college basketball. It's an honor to be a part of."

"I don't think there's any game that can prepare you for the Saint Joseph's game," said Wright. "We use the Saint Joseph's game as one that prepares us for the Big East games. We won't go into another environment that will be any more difficult than this, though we will find some that are as difficult. We always value these Big Five games on the road to prepare us for the Big East."

In order for Villanova to head back to the Main Line 9-0, they have to make their shots to take St. Joe’s fans out of the game. They can't let them affect the game.

Small Ball Lineup

Everyone thinks Villanova is a small team, but St Joe’s doesn't have a single player over the height of 6’ 9'' on their current roster. With that being said, Jay Wright could roll out his small ball lineup once again to match the Hawks, OR he could potentially take advantage of their small size, and feed Daniel Ochefu in the post, as he will have a significant size advantage. Ochefu hasn't been what we all had hoped for going into the season. He didn't get the start vs Penn because he didn't complete an academic project and only ended up playing only 12 minutes. Is Ochefu in Jay Wright's doghouse? No, I don't believe so. His confidence is shot right now and we need to find a way to get it back.

I believe Villanova will need him going forward, mostly because of what he can do on the defensive side of the ball. In this game, however, I think Jay Wright should go with the small ball lineup, running the offense through JayVaughn Pinkston, who is coming off his worst game of the season.

Depth

The Hawks are not very deep this year. Head Coach Phil Martelli usually runs out a lineup of only 6-7 guys each and every night. Their starters all player an average of over 30 minutes. A key for Villanova will be to drive to the rim and draw contact, hopefully resulting in a whistle. The more fouls they draw, the more Martelli will have to go into that weak bench.

On the other hand, Jay Wright has been using his deep bench as an advantage this year, something that he did not do as well in recent years. He plays about 8-9 players each night, with most playing double digit minutes. They can potentially wear out St. Joe’s with that depth, because they will have much fresher legs than those of the Hawks at the end of the game. The 'Cats bench has outscored St. Joe’s bench 175- 94 so far this season.

Villanova shoots just under 27 3’s per game, shooting it at a clip of 30%. They need to penetrate the lane vs the Hawks and make some shots in the paint in order to come out with a win.

Prediction
The #14 Villanova Wildcats will improve to 9-0 on the season and 2-0 in Big 5 games. They win 69-61 and the Hawk will die once again!

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