Villanova-Monmouth, N.J. Preview
Villanova coach Jay Wright wants to promote his program to places beyond the Philadelphia area, and that's part of the reason why he has scheduled a game on the Jersey Shore.
His eighth-ranked Wildcats travel Wednesday night to face Monmouth (N.J.), which is 0-37 against Big East opponents.
Villanova (9-1) will become the highest-ranked team to play at Monmouth (4-7). Gonzaga was ranked No. 22 when it won 79-54 on Dec. 29, 2001. The Hawks are playing in their second season in the $57 million Multipurpose Activity Center, which will be sold out.
Wright indicated that he wanted the Wildcats to play in an area where they usually don't and numerous alumni reside. Monmouth's campus is about 90 miles from Villanova.
The coach believes his team has plenty of room for improvement after a 78-59 victory over Delaware on Saturday. Villanova won its fourth straight despite a season-low nine assists and 17 turnovers.
"I still don't think we're as good our ranking, I really don't, but I think we could get there," Wright said.
The Wildcats remain in the bottom half of the Big East in 3-point shooting at 31.4 percent. They shot 37.5 percent Saturday, and Corey Stokes - the only Villanova player over 40 percent - missed both of his attempts.
"We have not been shooting the ball well from 3," Wright said. "(Corey) has been decent with that but he hasn't had one of the kinds of games which we've all seen where he really gets it going."
The lack of 3-point shooting has caused opponents to sag off Villanova's Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns, who are at 23.9 percent and 18.4, respectively. It's a plan that won't be easy to employ by the Hawks.
"Our problem is, we can't simulate in practice some of the talent that Villanova has on the floor," Monmouth coach Dave Calloway said.
Calloway is most concerned about Fisher, who has 20 assists and 14 turnovers over the last three games. Fisher scored 21 points against Delaware, but wasn't happy with his five turnovers.
"It's early in the year," Fisher said. "That's what we've got practice for."
Monmouth has averaged 18.5 turnovers in losing two straight, with 19 coming in Saturday's 79-56 loss to Rutgers. The Hawks erased a six-point halftime deficit to take the lead before the Scarlet Knights took over.
"We hung with them most of the game," guard R.J. Rutledge said. "But the turnovers caught up to us in the end. We had the energy going for a while, but it's still a loss."
Rutledge matched a season high with 17 points off the bench for the Hawks, who were outrebounded 43-26.
While the talent disparity is wide between these teams, another difference is at the free-throw line. Villanova is shooting a Big East-leading 78.5 percent while Monmouth is last in the Northeast Conference at 58.9 percent.
Villanova leads the series, 6-0. Stokes scored 18 in the last meeting, a 71-48 win Nov. 25, 2008.