Villanova coach Jay Wright knows the rest of the Big East is gunning for his first-place Wildcats.
And although Wright's team isn't playing as well as he'd like heading into a road meeting with a longtime rival, Villanova continues to rack up wins against conference opponents.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats will put their 20-game Big East winning streak on the line against Georgetown on Saturday at the site of their last conference loss, Washington's Verizon Center.
Villanova (15-2, 5-0) hasn't dropped a Big East game since a 78-58 blowout loss to Georgetown at the downtown D.C. arena last Jan. 19, when the Wildcats were ranked No. 4 and sitting atop the conference.
Almost a year later, the Wildcats are again leading the Big East after beating Marquette 83-68 on Wednesday night for their 36th consecutive win at The Pavilion.
Villanova blew an early 16-point lead and trailed by one at halftime, but pulled away over the final 10 minutes. Kris Jenkins led the way with 20 points and Jalen Brunson scored 14.
“You can see teams really fired up to play us,” Wright said. “Marquette, they brought it, man. They weren't going to go away.”
The Wildcats shot 52 percent in the second half after hitting 38.7 in the first. The conference's top-ranked defense held the Golden Eagles to 29.6 percent in the second half.
Villanova enters Saturday with a seven-game overall winning streak and a one-game lead on the Hoyas but plenty of room for improvement. Wright's team has shot a combined 40.7 percent over the past three games with more turnovers (36) than assists (34).
“We are not playing great,” the coach griped after the Marquette win. “But we are playing together.”
Georgetown (11-6, 4-1) is coming off a 93-73 rout of St. John's on Wednesday, its fifth win in six games. Senior D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the Big East's third-leading scorer at 16.6 points per game, matched his career high with 33.
“He's been doing that for four years and, just as important, he also been throwing a lot of good passes,” coach John Thompson III said. “I think he understands where everyone is and where he is and he can score. At the end of the day, one thing this kid can do is put the ball in the basket. He's a scorer.”
Smith-Rivera, who also leads Georgetown with 4.4 assists per game, had just two Wednesday but shot 11 of 16 from the field, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers.
“My teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open,” he said. “I usually distribute more, but today was about being in the right spot at the right time.”
The Hoyas are sixth in the conference in field-goal shooting at 44.8 percent but hit 51.9 percent against St. John's, its best performance in nearly two months.
Villanova has won four of five against Georgetown, including a 69-53 victory Feb. 7 in the last meeting. Smith-Rivera went cold in that one, shooting 1 for 7 for two points after scoring 17 in the Jan. 19 win.
Wildcats forward Daniel Ochefu, third in the Big East with 8.6 rebounds per game, left Wednesday's win in the second half after falling hard on his tailbone. Ochefu's status against Georgetown is unknown, though the senior said on Twitter he is “fine.”
Villanova guard Josh Hart, the Big East's fifth-leading scorer (15.5 ppg), matched a season low with 10 points Wednesday and shot 4 for 12. He was the only Villanova player to score in double digits in both games against Georgetown last season.