Villanova-Saint Joseph's Preview
Villanova went unbeaten in the opening month of a season for the third straight time despite poor 3-point shooting.
Coach Jay Wright's desire for improvement may go unfulfilled against Saint Joseph's.
Another suffocating defensive effort may be needed if the eighth-ranked Wildcats are to improve to 7-0 on Tuesday night in this Big Five matchup with the Hawks.
Villanova is 19-0 in the first month over the last three seasons and wasn't too shabby in the past two Decembers, combining for a 12-1 record.
The Wildcats' early success over the last three years, however, has come despite a combined 30.9 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. They're hitting 30.2 this season but have compensated by ranking third in the nation with 53.5 points allowed per game while holding opponents to 32.5 percent from the floor.
Villanova allowed 97 total points in victories over Stanford and Georgia Tech to win the NIT Season Tip-Off, beating the Yellow Jackets 69-52 on Friday. However, the Wildcats converted 8 of 27 attempts from beyond the arc against Georgia Tech compared to 19 of 24 from within it.
"We have to figure this out a little bit," Wright said. "We're not shooting well from 3. Teams are really getting out and taking away the 3-pointer from us, and they're doing a good job.
"We have to figure out a way to get more open 3s, but we really have to be efficient from two if they're going to do that."
Villanova has hit 39.6 percent of its 3s over the last two matchups with Saint Joseph's (4-1). The Wildcats connected on 9 of 23 attempts in a 74-46 win Dec. 6, beating the Hawks for the ninth time in 11 tries.
This time will be much tougher along the perimeter as Saint Joseph's allows opponents to shoot 27.7 percent from long range and 36.5 overall.
The Hawks held Old Dominion to 4 for 19 from 3-point range and blocked a season-high 10 shots before Shavar Newkirk hit a jumper in the final second of a 66-64 win Nov. 22.
Isaiah Miles added a game-high 18 points with three blocks. The senior forward leads Saint Joseph's with 17.0 points and 2.2 blocks per game, an increase from his career highs of 10.7 and 0.9 from last season.
Miles, though, has no points while missing all six shots - five from 3-point range - in two meetings with Villanova.
DeAndre' Bembry has totaled 30 points in those matchups. The junior forward had 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high four blocks against the Monarchs after scoring 10 points in each of the previous two games.
Josh Hart is leading Villanova with 14.8 points per game but much of that is due to a career-high 27 in a 75-56 win over Akron on Nov. 22. He's totaled 23 points in two games since, missing 10 of 11 3-point tries.
Hart had 12 points and eight rebounds against St. Joseph's last year.
Freshman Jalen Brunson has quickly become a key contributor for the Wildcats, averaging 11.7 points. He totaled 31 in the last two games to earn MVP honors at the NIT Season Tip-Off.