Villanova faces road challenge against Seton Hall

No. 4 Villanova will try to avoid rare back-to-back losses when it meets Seton Hall on Wednesday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

The Wildcats (25-4, 12-4 Big East) haven’t dropped two straight since the 2012-13 season when they lost to Louisville in the Big East Tournament and followed that up with a loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Jay Wright’s team has won the past four regular- season Big East titles, but currently is in second place, one game behind No. 3 Xavier (13-3). After its 115th meeting with Seton Hall (20-9, 9-7), the Wildcats close out the season at home to Georgetown.

Seton Hall and Villanova each went to overtime in its most recent games on Saturday.

The Pirates outlasted St. John’s 81-74 in extra time at Madison Square Garden. It was their third consecutive victory and came without forward Desi Rodriguez, who suffered an ankle sprain earlier in the week in a win at Providence.

Rodriguez, the Pirates leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, is questionable for Wednesday.

The Pirates are also facing some off-the-court turmoil. Former Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead’s name appeared alongside amounts of $26,136 and $37,657 in the loan ledger of NBA agent Andy Miller in the widespread federal corruption investigation into college basketball.

Coach Kevin Willard maintains that his program is clean.

“We’re going to be 100 percent open, 100 percent honest,” Willard told the N.Y. Daily News. “I’m glad the school has moved quickly on this so we can move on.”

With Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado, the Pirates have a trio of experienced scorers — the three have a combined 4,875 career points. All three are among the top 20 all-time scorers in the history of the program, with Carrington leading the trio (10th), followed by Rodriguez (15th) and Delgado (18th). No other class in program history had more than one player on the top-20 all-time scoring list.

Villanova played its first overtime game of the season at Creighton and first since an 82-79 loss to Providence in January 2016. The Bluejays rallied from a 68-60 deficit with 4:30 remaining in regulation to force overtime and then outscored the Wildcats in the fifth period to post an 89-83 win.

“That was an incredible effort by Creighton,” said Wright “They just outplayed us.”

“You know on the road in this league you are going to play in great environments against great teams. You have to be one step ahead to win on the road. We weren’t at Creighton and we’ve been working on that the last few days in practice.”

In the first meeting between Villanova and Seton Hall this season, the Wildcats broke open a close game in the second half. Freshman Omari Spellman posted one of his nine double-doubles with 26 points and 11 rebounds in the 92-76 win on Feb. 4. The Wildcats have won six of the last seven against Seton Hall.

“Seton Hall is playing very well and we anticipate another very difficult test,” stated Wright. “We look forward to it and continuing to try to get better every day.”

Jalen Brunson, the Big East’s preseason player of the year and a national player of the year candidate, leads six Wildcat players in double figures with 19.3 points a game.

This will be Villanova’s ninth contest in 28 days — the most the Wildcats have played in a month since March 2016 and the most they have played in a month during the regular season since January 2011.

Villanova has lost only 15 games since the new Big East was configured in 2013. Seton Hall, Butler and Creighton are tied for the most wins against the Wildcats with three apiece.