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Resurgent Villanova rides momentum into The Rock for must-win tilt with Seton Hall

After knocking off their third ranked opponent on the season, they risk a big letdown against the Pirates of Seton Hall.


Villanova is feeling pretty good after taking care of business against Marquette on Saturday night, but the Wildcats need to take things one game at a time. With the short bus ride to Newark, New Jersey awaiting them for Monday night, the 'Cats will hope to avoid a letdown that could crush their NCAA hopes.

"We know we can play well and still lose on the road," Jay Wright said. "[Seton Hall] has been in every game. As long as we're playing well and we keep getting better, we'll be OK, we'll win our share of games."

Even after suffering the loss of forwards Brandon Mobley and Patrick Auda to injuries, Seton Hall could be dangerous if overlooked.

Defense has been key for the Wildcats this season, improving to 30th in the nation after Saturday's win, their high point of the season. The biggest hole in that defensive effort has been against the 3-point shot this season, allowing opponents to make 35.7% from beyond the arc. That could be a problem for the Wildcats on Monday night, with Seton Hall connecting on 35.6% from deep this season — third in the Big East.

Nova is one of the hottest teams in the Big East conference heading into the meeting, while the 13-15 Pirates have just two conference victories. The 'Cats' opponent is trying to bounce back from a 79-61 slaying at the hands of number-10 Louisville.

"We like to say that the next game is a big game because we're in it," Wright noted. "We try not to focus on how people on the outside label a game. We know we have to go up there and play well."

Junior Fuquan Edwin has scored in double-figures for Seton Hall in each of their last six games, and is fast-rising up the schools' all-time scoring list with 1,142 career points. He averages 16.9 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals while shooting a scorching 41.5% from beyond the arc.

Aaron Cosby isn't far behind from the perimeter, connecting on 37.7% to average 12.1 points and 2.9 assists.

There are five Pirates averaging 33.3% or higher shooting from deep, but only two of those are among the team's usual double-digit scorers. Brandon Mobley, at 9 points per game is close, however, and his 43.4% clip from deep makes it tough for the Villanova defense to ignore him.

Eugene Teague is their third-leading scorer at 11.2 points per game and he leads the Pirates on the boards with 7.4 rebounds per game.

Key to stopping the Pirates will be the defensive play of Villanova's guards, who have been getting more and more comfortable with their roles during Big East play.

"Darrun [Hilliard] has been outstanding defensively guarding a lot of guards... same with Ryan Arch and Tony Chennault," Jay Wright stated. "(Marquette's) guards are really, really good. Darrun was guarding Vander Blue and did an amazing job on him. I know he had 22 points and we probably don't win the game without him, but you're not in a game like that unless you're defending like he's defending."

Hilliard will again be a key player for the Wildcats, but with multiple threats from the perimeter, Villanova will need a team effort on defense to slow the Pirates' scoring.

James Bell could be one of those key players for the Wildcats, having contributed well defensively, but most importantly, he has been hot against Seton Hall the past two seasons. As a freshman, he went off at the Prudential Center, scoring 22 points on 4-6 shooting from deep. Last season, Bell scored 18 points, shooting 50% from deep and grabbing six rebounds as well.

Seton Hall is a program that has been reeling this season, but they are one that has the capability to take advantage of the Wildcats if they aren't prepared. Villanova needs to execute it's help-defense crisply against this opponent in order to keep the Hall out of the game — that is especially true if the Wildcats' offense struggles like it did in the first half against Marquette.

Updated 10:40a:

While Cosby will reportedly look to transfer, the Politi column referenced makes it clear that the team's number-2 scorer will not do so until the off-season. Cosby has been playing this semester and will presumably continue to do so, especially since he won't get that semester of eligibility back from the NCAA in any case.