Villanova vs. La Salle: What to watch for

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The #10 Villanova Wildcats will take on the La Salle Explorers in yet another Big 5 game on Sunday, December 15th at 2:30 ET at the Pavilion. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

After playing 5 games in 10 days, including a trip to the Bahamas, the Wildcats got a much needed eight day layoff between games.

It’s good," James Bell told Philahoops. "We go hard, we practice very hard, and we try to play even harder. Just to get a break sometimes is good.

"We’re not playing games but we’re still working really hard," Bell said.

It gives us more time to clean up some of our flaws as a team," senior Tony Chennault said. "We can really focus on us and not the other team. I thought it was a good thing for us."

Their last win came over St. Joseph's (PA) as a second half serge lead the Wildcats to a convincing 30-point victory in the so called "Holy War."

James Bell recorded his second double-double of the season. The senior captain had a career high in points (25) and rebounds (14). Once again, his teammate, JayVaughn Pinkston was an absolute animal. He had six "and 1" opportunities and finished the night with 27 points and 8 rebounds. His offense got all the attention but he also played a very good game defensively.

"JayVaughn was so well-prepared for those games against Penn and St. Joe's - he knew the scouting report inside and out and had his best defensive game on Saturday," stated Wright.

La Salle coach, John Giannini, has also been very impressed by Pinkston

"Pinkston is a really hard individual matchup for everybody; he’s quicker than most big guys and stronger than most wings and guards," "When we go two bigs, we would probably have to make some defensive adjustments."

Villanova is at its best when they give Pinkston the ball down low. He can create for himself and for others, usually making the extra pass when double teamed on the low block. The Wildcats often live and die by the 3-ball, but should limit those 3-point attempts and give Pinkston the ball down low.

JayVaughn has matured so much over his 4 years on the mainline.

La Salle, on the other hand, is coming off a 65-57 victory over Stony Brook. The Explorers return the majority of their roster from their 2012-2013 team, which made a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. They did, however, lose their leader and best player Ramon Galloway to graduation. In the 77-74 win over Villanova last year, Galloway had 26 points, 4 assists and 5 steals.

They are now led by guards Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren. Garland is averaging 16.3 points per game, but shooting a mediocre, 36% from the field, while Duren is averaging a hair under 14 points, while also dishing out 4 assists per contest. Duren has been dealing with plantar faciitis.

"I’m feeling a lot better and this is the first time in a year that I could walk around without having to worry about limping around or having my foot hurt."

La Salle shoots under 30% from beyond the arch, something the Wildcats have struggled defending often times this season. Depth is also a concern, just as it was for St. Joseph's. Villanova was able to wear down the Hawks and will look to do the same vs. the Explorers. All five starters play over 23 minutes and sixth man D.J. Peterson averages 28 minutes per game. Beside those six, no other player is averaging over 11 minutes a game. Look for Villanova's 9-man rotation to wear out La Salle.

In the front court, a player to watch out for is 6' 8" junior forward, Jerell Wright. Wright has scored double digits in seven of the first nine games. He scored a career high 21 points in the victory over Stony Brook.

Here's a little comparison on how the teams have played thus far:

La Salle is scoring 71.6 point per game, (216th in the country), 36.7 rebounds per game (157th), 12.6 assists (206th) and shooting 40.4 % from the field (318th).

Villanova is scoring 83 ppg (33rd in the country), 43.3 rebounds per games (12th), 16.7 assists ( 20th) and shooting 44% from the field (205th)

"I think the biggest challenge is that they’re a great rebounding team," Tyreek Duren explained on Friday. "Coach has been emphasizing that we got to rebound a lot more. He said they’re one of the best rebounding teams in the country."

With that being said, you would think this game will be a cake walk. However, I don't expect that to be the case. Big 5 games are usually always tough, and La Salle has underachieved so far this season. #10 Villanova now has a target on their back and teams want to knock them off more now than in recent years.

VUhoops writer, Ryan Saccoman told me that their is a ton of buzz on campus, and students are no longer selling their tickets because everyone wants to go see the Top 10 Villanova Wildcats in action.

I expect them to maintain focus after a long lay off and beat the Explorers, 78-66

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