No. 1 Villanova looks to extend streak (Jan 21, 2017)

VILLANOVA, Pa. — After some much-needed rest, top-ranked Villanova returns to Big East action against visiting Providence on Saturday at noon ET at the Wells Fargo Center.

Villanova (18-1, 6-1 Big East) blitzed Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday for the 47th straight win at its 6,500-seat on-campus arena on the Main Line.

This matchup against the Friars will be the second of four games at the Wells Fargo Center, home of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s Flyers. Villanova defeated Marquette 93-81 here on Jan. 7.

The Wildcats were a bit sluggish and rallied to defeat St. John’s 70-57 at Madison Square Garden before rolling past the Pirates.

No matter the opponent, Villanova relies on its senior leaders — Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds — to set the early defensive tone. It hasn’t always happened.

“We are really fortunate to have three guys that are experienced and have been successful, but they are really humble,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “We look at the film and we tell and show them that St. John’s played harder than us and they take care of it. We didn’t practice (Sunday) because we felt that we were beat up a little bit. I thought we had good fresh legs tonight, but I also think the seniors set the tone.”

Five players scored in double figures in the win over Seton Hall, led by Jenkins (16 points) and guard Jalen Brunson (13). Yet scoring hasn’t been an issue all season.

“Our effort defensively and on the glass is not consistent every night,” Wright said. “We have had some games where we have not played well defensively and Kris has hit six threes or and we have found a way to win. Against Butler, we didn’t play well defensively and we lost. Donte (DiVincenzo) bailed us out against St. John’s. We are trying to be consistent and play like we played (Monday), every night.”

Providence (13-7, 3-4) has won two in a row over Seton Hall and Georgetown. The Friars defeated the Hoyas 74-56 on Monday night at the Verizon Center.

“I thought that was one of our more complete games that we’ve played all season, offensively and defensively,” coach Ed Cooley told the Providence Journal. “We made timely shots and defensively we were pretty tough. It was one of the more spirited efforts that we’ve had.”

Junior forward Rodney Bullock leads the way for the Friars, averaging 17.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Emmitt Holt (13.1 ppg), Jalen Lindsey (10.2) and Kyron Cartwright (10.1) are all averaging in double figures in this balanced lineup.

Providence is 2-13 all-time against the top-ranked team in the country. The two wins came against Michigan (82-81 in double overtime) on Dec. 29, 1976, and 81-73 over Pittsburgh on Feb. 24, 2009.

“I’ve talked to the team about staying spirited, having fun and try to enjoy each other,” Cooley told the Providence Journal. “We need to defend like there’s no tomorrow and get out in transition. You can’t be uptight. We need to be as loose as possible. Enjoy the game.”

The last time Providence played a top-ranked team on the road came on Nov. 30, 2014, when it lost 58-38 to Kentucky at Rupp Arena.