No. 8 Seton Hall, No. 14 Villanova set for Big East battle

NCAA Basketball
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Villanova will look to bounce back from a home loss to Providence when it travels to Seton Hall on Wednesday night.

The 14th-ranked Wildcats (22-7, 11-5 Big East) hope to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the No. 8 Pirates, who won the teams’ other meeting this season, 70-64, on Feb. 8.

Villanova struggled on offense Saturday against Providence, scoring only 18 points in the first half of a 58-54 home loss.

“That was a tough Big East battle,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It’s been like that every night. We just didn’t perform well enough in this one, and they did. They were really tough defensively and on the glass. We didn’t have an answer for (Luwane) Pipkins — couldn’t guard him. …

“They were great defensively. We really struggled scoring against their length. When they were in man-to-man, they kept switching. When they were in zone, they just matched up with all of our guys. It was a great job.”

Wildcats guard Collin Gillespie was clearly bothered by a sore thigh and scored 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field against Providence. Saddiq Bey scored 11 points but fouled out after 29 minutes. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Providence’s suffocating defense seemed to bother the young Wildcats. It won’t get any easier when Villanova visits another solid defensive team in Seton Hall.

“We had our chances,” Wright said after the loss to the Friars. “We had the ball down four and turned it over. We had another opportunity right after that and threw the ball away. … You’ve got to give credit to Providence. They were tougher and made more intelligent plays down the stretch.”

The defeat ended Villanova’s five-game winning streak.

Seton Hall (21-7, 13-3) has won 15 of its past 18 games, and it is surging following consecutive wins over Butler, St. John’s and Marquette. An 88-79 win Saturday against the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee was particularly impressive.

Myles Powell led the Pirates with 28 points and five 3-pointers while Sandro Mamukelashvili added 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting to go with nine rebounds. Seton Hall hit 50 percent of its field-goal attempts and made 13 of 26 shots from 3-point range.

Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 junior, has sparked Seton Hall recently. He missed 10 games because of a fractured right wrist and came back Jan. 29.

Mamukelashvili has scored in double figures in six of nine games since returning.

“He’s a dynamic player. He spread the floor for us, he does a lot of good things,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said Saturday. “He takes a lot of pressure off Myles. Having him back and seeing him round into form has given us a nice added dimension.”

Mamukelashvili also made all three of his 3-pointers against Marquette. Now healthy, he’s giving the Pirates a huge boost as the Big East tournament nears.

“We just love playing with each other, and we’re having fun while we do it,” Mamukelashvili said.

–Field Level Media

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