Villanova looks to continue Big 5 streak vs. Saint Joseph’s

PHILADELPHIA — Fourth-ranked Villanova will attempt to extend its Big 5 winning streak to 20 straight games with a short trip to Hagan Arena to face archrival Saint Joseph’s on Saturday in what is known as the “Holy War.”

The Wildcats (7-0), who opened Big 5 play with a 90-62 rout of Penn Wednesday night at the Jake Nevin Field House, will face a banged-up St. Joe’s team that is 4-3. The Hawks’ last win in this series came on Dec. 17, 2011.

Villanova received 14 points from freshman forward Omari Spellman. After missing all of last season as an academic redshirt by the NCAA, Spellman has slowly improved through the first seven games.

Spellman knocked down his first four shots against the Quakers, including a pair of 3-pointers.

“The Big O has been doing a lot of good things — rebounding, playing unselfishly,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was nice to see him get it going offensively. He’s young and he’s getting it.”

Spellman is averaging 8.0 points 6.9 rebounds, but he isn’t concerned about statistics.

“Coach and my teammates have helped me mature a lot,” Spellman said. “I only try to worry about the things I can control. I can’t control if the ball is going in the hoop but I can control how hard I play, how hard I try to defend, how well I talk to my teammates. I really wasn’t worried too much about the offense.”

Meanwhile, junior point guard Jalen Brunson continues to shine for the Wildcats. The reigning Big East Player of the Week leads the team in scoring (18.4), though he has taken only 73 shots.

Wright pointed to his leadership skills.

“It starts with his character, he’s just an old soul,” Wright said. “He comes to work every day, mentally prepared, physically prepared. He just has a great perspective on life. When you take that to the basketball court, he plays the same way — very intelligently, tough and very skilled.”

Saint Joseph’s defeated Bucknell 83-70 on Wednesday.

The Hawks were led by James Demery (20 points) and senior guard Shavar Newkirk (19 points, 10 rebounds). Chris Clover added a season-high 17 points.

“I know we can play better and have to play better than that,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “But that’s a really high-level team (Bucknell) that has challenged themselves, and they’ll be in the NCAA Tournament. We have to grow on it.”

Bucknell entered the game averaging 85 points but the Hawks held the Bison to their lowest scoring total of the season.

The short-handed Hawks will be facing an even more daunting challenge against Villanova without key players such as Charlie Brown, who remains sidelined with a fracture in his left wrist. Brown had surgery on Oct. 24.

Lamarr Kimble will miss the remainder of the season after re-injuring the fifth metatarsal of his left foot in the season opener Nov. 11 at Toledo. It was the same injury that Kimble suffered on Feb. 11, 2017, which required surgery and had him miss the final seven games of the season.