Bucknell-Villanova Preview

BY foxsports • November 19, 2014

Villanova coach Jay Wright hopes his team's tenacious defensive effort keeps leading to easy chances at the other end.

That would appear to be a winning strategy against a Bucknell team that couldn't take care of the ball in its first loss.

The 12th-ranked Wildcats seek their eighth straight 3-0 start with a 17th consecutive win at the Pavilion on Thursday night as they take on the Bison in the second stage of the Legends Classic regional round.

Villanova shot 38.0 percent Friday, but forced 23 turnovers and used a 31-4 advantage in points off turnovers to pull away in a season-opening 77-66 win over Lehigh in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The Wildcats, who led the Big East in defensive field-goal percentage (40.5) and forced turnovers per game (13.8) last season, put up another solid effort in Monday's 81-44 home win over Maryland Eastern Shore in the tournament opener.

They limited the Hawks to 14 points and forced 13 turnovers in the first half, and held them to 34.2 percent shooting while creating 22 turnovers overall. Villanova owned a 16-2 edge in points off turnovers in the first 20 minutes, running its margin in that category to 47-6 over the first game and a half.

The Wildcats also got on track offensively with their highest field-goal percentage (56.9) in 22 games.

"When so much of your offense comes off your defense like that, it's nice," Wright told the school's official website.

Wright, who played at Bucknell, is 5-0 against his alma mater while at Villanova. His current club should be able to create problems for the Bison, who committed 17 turnovers while shooting 39.6 percent in Monday's 77-53 loss at No. 24 Michigan.

''It's fun,'' said Wright, whose Wildcats haven't lost at the Pavilion since Feb. 3, 2013. ''There are a lot of Bucknell alumni in the area. I root for them and follow them. They've got a good, young team.''

Villanova, the preseason Big East favorite, may have to keep an eye on Chris Hass. The junior guard bounced back from a 2-for-10 shooting effort in Friday's 75-72 win over Marist to hit 5 of 8 from 3-point range on the way to 21 points Monday.

Bucknell (1-1) has been vulnerable defensively on the perimeter, allowing opponents to make 20 of 46 from beyond the arc. That should be a good sign for a Villanova team that has gone 15 of 54 (27.8) from the 3-point line.

Dylan Ennis has hit 5 of 13 from 3 and is averaging a team-high 14.5 points for the Wildcats, while reserve forward Kris Jenkins is looking to build on his career-high 15-point effort against Maryland Eastern Shore.

Villanova holds a 15-9 all-time series lead, though Bucknell hasn't beaten the Wildcats since 1945. The Bison also have dropped their last 11 games by an average of 18.7 points versus ranked opponents.

The Wildcats will try not to look too far ahead with a much-anticipated matchup with VCU in Brooklyn on Monday.

''We have no thoughts about that yet,'' Wright said. ''We really do focus one game at a time. I don't worry about that at all.''