Villanova faced some big-name opponents during the NIT Season Tip-Off last week as it gets ready for a grueling Big East schedule. An upcoming three-game stretch against city rivals should also serve as good preparation.
The 12th-ranked Wildcats look to bounce back from their first loss when they host Saint Joseph's on Friday night in their first Philadelphia Big 5 City Series matchup of the season.
Villanova (5-1) has not played since a 78-68 loss to then-No. 24 Tennessee last Friday in the championship game of the NIT after beating UCLA in the semifinals. The Wildcats shot a season-low 34.5 percent in the title contest, and coach Jay Wright said afterward that the Volunteers were the tougher team.
"Coach told us they were going to come out and play (hard) and that's what they did," guard Corey Stokes said. "He said it would be a street fight."
That analogy would also be appropriate for Big 5 games, with Villanova winning 21 of its last 23. The Wildcats' next three games are against Saint Joseph's (3-3), Pennsylvania and La Salle.
Villanova has won tight games over the Hawks the last two seasons, including a 97-89 victory last season.
Stokes is being counted on to do more in his senior season, although he's scored a total of seven points in three career games against the Hawks. He averaged 15.7 points over three games before being held to 11 on 3-of-9 shooting last Friday.
It was a worse night for leading scorer Corey Fisher, who missed 9 of 10 shots for three points after entering the contest averaging 18.4 points. Fisher is averaging 6.3 points on 22.2 percent shooting in three games against the Hawks, and the Wildcats are looking for him to replace the clutch play of former All-American guard Scottie Reynolds.
"I think Fish can be that guy to get us a big basket that Scottie was for us for so long," Wright said.
Saint Joseph's will be looking to bounce back after losing to city rival Drexel, 62-50 on Wednesday. Toughness was an issue as the Hawks were outrebounded 46-23.
"From the first tape I watched until the pre-game talk, the number one thing was rebounding," coach Phil Martelli said. "If we rebounded, we'd win the game. We didn't rebound and we didn't win the game. It was a real lesson on the backboard for every one of our guys."
Carl Jones was the only Hawk in double figures with 20 points. Saint Joseph's starts three freshmen, and they combined for 13 points and six rebounds.
"Too many no-shows on possessions for us," Martelli said. "Some of it was the response to the physicality and some of it was the response to being the first time there was really noise in an away gym."
A big effort by Idris Hilliard, the lone senior starter for Saint Joseph's, would help Friday. Hilliard had a career-high 22 points in last season's loss to Villanova.