Nova looks to rebound from a disappointing 21 point loss to West Virginia, facing the struggling and unranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-11, 10-15) on Thursday at the Pavilion. Former Jay Wright Assistant, Fred Hill, is now in his third season as Rutgers’ Head Coach. Game coverage begins at 9PM on either ESPN or ESPN2.
In their last game on Saturday at Providence, Rutgers reduced a 22-point, first-half deficit to a single digit, but would get no closer in a 78-68 loss. Sophomore guards Mike Coburn and Earl Pettis had season scoring highs, posting 14 and 13 points respectively, to pace the Scarlet Knights. Freshman guard Mike Rosario was held to only 5 points.
Key Matchup: Scottie Reynolds vs. Mike Rosario
Rutgers is led by freshman Mike Rosario, a McDonald’s All-American and former St. Anthony teammate of Nova ’09 recruit Dominic Cheek. Rosario is Rutgers’ only double-digit scorer, averaging 17.0 ppg, connecting on 43% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc, and leads the Big East in free throw shooting at 87%. He was named the Big East Rookie of the Week in early February after scoring 16 against DePaul and 25 at Seton Hall . Scotty Reynolds, also a McDonald’s All-American, is averaging 15.2 ppg. for the Cats, but comes off a sub-par12 point effort in Nova’s loss to West Virginia.
X-Factors: Nova’s Bench & Senior Night
Villanova has some of the best guards in the Big East, and gets a lift when Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher enter a few minutes into the game. Fisher is third in team scoring (10.9 ppg) while Stokes is fourth (9.8 ppg). Fisher has been on a roll lately, averaging 15.0 ppg over his past five games and showing an improved jump shot to compliment his circus drives to the hoop. Both Coreys are capable of making big plays. Antonio Pena recently lost his starting role to Shane Clark, but contributes 6.6 ppg and 5.2 rebounds. Senior Night should provide an added emotional lift to the players and NovaNation.
Rankings: Going into the weekend, Villanova was ranked 12th by AP and 14th by ESPN, 9th in RPI and 18th in SOS. Rutgers is unranked, ranked 170th in RPI and ranked 63 in SOS.
Nova vs. Rutgers Big East Results Comparison: (two teams with wildly different results against common competitors)