Xavier-Villanova Preview

Paced by an improved offensive focus, Villanova has bounced back nicely from its first defeat.

The No. 5 Wildcats could be in for another strong offensive effort Wednesday night against a visiting Xavier team that’s struggled defensively while dropping three straight road contests.

Villanova (15-1, 3-1 Big East) shot a season-low 31.0 percent in a 66-61 overtime loss at previously unranked Seton Hall on Jan. 3, but since has hit a combined 54.7 percent and made 23 of 52 3-pointers while beating then-No. 24 St. John’s and DePaul by 35 points.

The Wildcats trailed at halftime in four of their previous five contests before going 18 of 29 and hitting seven of 12 3-point attempts to take a 45-24 lead after 20 minutes in Saturday’s 81-64 victory over the Blue Demons.

"We just try to keep going after the other team," said Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who had 14 points and hit four of five 3s. "It’s more about how we want to start the game. We know that’s been a struggle for us, starting games. We’ve worked on that in practice."

Villanova’s early dominance set the pace for a 16th straight home victory and 29th in 30 such contests.

"When you get a lead like that at halftime at home, it’s pretty tough for an (opposing) team," said Wildcats coach Jay Wright, whose team’s current home winning streak began with an 81-58 rout of Xavier on Feb. 3.

Sporting a 3-8 road record in the Big East and allowing an average of 82.7 points on 49.7 percent shooting during a three-game overall slide away from home, the Musketeers (11-5, 2-2) are likely to have their hands full Wednesday. The Wildcats shot 49.2 percent and hit 11 3-pointers in last season’s home victory.

Xavier averaged 82.2 points and shot 52.6 percent while winning eight of its first 10, but is shooting 44.3 percent to split the next six and averaging 70.8 points in the last five. Villanova has yielded an average of 62.0 points on 39.1 percent shooting its last three home contests.

The Musketeers shot 46.4 percent Saturday, but allowed Butler to shoot 48.1 and hold a 21-11 advantage in second-chance points while being outrebounded 37-26 in an 88-76 road defeat.

"We’re not going to win games if we give up 88 points in conference play," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "It’s a hard league. It’s a bear. It’s hard to win on the road."

Center Matt Stainbrook (12.4 points, 7.3 rebounds per game) had 21 points Saturday, and 14 with 11 boards at Villanova last season.

Wildcats guard Darrun Hilliard (13.5 ppg) totaled 36 points on 54.2 percent shooting and hit half of his 10 3-point attempts in two meetings with the Musketeers in 2013-14. He’s shot a combined 57.7 percent and gone 7 of 15 from beyond the arc while scoring 21 in each of the last two games.

Xavier beat both then-No. 25 Georgetown and then-No. 19 Seton Hall at home in its previous meetings with ranked teams this season. Its last road victory over a Top 25 opponent came at then-No. 20 Vanderbilt, 82-70 in overtime Nov. 28, 2011.