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Villanova Basketball 2021-22 game preview: Howard Bison

Villanova Wildcats will look to bounce back from the UCLA loss.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The 1-1 Wildcats look to host the unbeaten Howard Bison on Tuesday night. The ‘Cats have traveled back to the east coast after a tough overtime loss to the Bruins of UCLA on Friday.

A 6:30pm tip-off from the Finneran Pavilion will be just the third ever game between the two schools. Jay Wright and staff have never faced Howard themselves, but overall, Villanova posts a 2-0 record over Howard, including the latest win in December 1998.

What we learned Friday Night

After a tough battle with UCLA, the Cats proved that they can battle with the best of them including anyone in the top-10. The two teams both have Final Four aspirations and the potential to make deep runs in the postseason. The ‘Cats must feel that Friday’s game might’ve gotten a little away from them after posting a 10-point lead in the late second half, only to lose momentum in overtime.

Friday night, Villanova had five different players each post double digit scoring. Jermaine Samuels scored a team-high 20 points while Colin Gillespie posted 18 points for the Wildcats. The Cats will need to continue this well-balanced scoring and shooting threats from all five spots.

Justin Moore, Brandon Slater and Eric Dixon looked overall solid Friday night. Villanova seemed to struggle defensively around the rim and on the boards against the Bruins. The Bruins outrebounded them 46-32. The Cats were also sub-par from the stripe making 10-of-15 free throws in this matchup.

While there were some promising takeaways from the loss, the lineup against UCLA only had six in the rotation, but coach Jay Wright could look to test out the younger players like Trey Patterson, Jordan Longino, and Nnanna Njoku in this matchup.

Taking a look at the Bison

Howard wrapped up the 2020 season with a 4-29 record (including going 1-15 in the MEAC), and in February of 2021 the team canceled the remainder of the season after playing just five games when the team had a COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s been a tough couple of years for Howard, but the Bison is relieved to finally be able to play a full, normal season (knock on wood).

Flash forward to the beginning of this season, Howard has jumpstarted into the 2021-22 season. Howard has eased itself back in action, with a pair of one-sided victories over Division II District of Columbia and NCCAA school Regent University. It continued the dominance over its latest victim, Bradley, the team’s first Division I opponent of the season.

Former highly-touted five-star prospect Makur Maker never really got to make his mark with the team and didn’t end up staying for a second season, so who’s left?

Senior Dontarius James earned all-conference preseason second-team nods, while redshirt sophomore Steve Settle III got a spot on the third team. James, a 6-8 forward from Jacksonville, and Settle, a 6-10 forward, will both be a big test in the post and look to challenge the ‘Cats on the glass.

There isn’t much of a sample size to work with, since they didn’t play much last year, but so far, Elijah Hawkins and Kyle Foster lead the team. They average 18.5 and 14.7 points per game, respectively. Hawkins, a do-it-all guard for the Bison is also one of their top rebounders and defenders, and also averages 5.5 assists, plus 5.5 turnovers per game. Foster has also shot 12-of-18 from long range through his first three games this season.

Villanova will be a true test for Howard, as it hasn’t faced any opponent this well-coached and talented yet this season. The ‘Cats are coming off a big loss and will look to make some adjustments, but get back on track before their big trip back to Mohegan Sun this weekend.