By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
1 (Formerly: 1). Villanova (21-2, 8-2 Big East)
Previous week: W 70-52 vs. Marquette, W 69-53 vs. Georgetown
Upcoming week: Wednesday @ Providence, Saturday @ Butler
Read our full coverage of Villanova’s win over Marquette here. Then, although Jay Wright said it wasn’t a revenge game, you know the players had in mind their earlier 20-point loss to the Hoyas when Georgetown came to Philadelphia Saturday. The team even wore their 30th anniversary throwback jerseys from the school’s 1985 title win over Georgetown. The Wildcats wasted no time making the previous meeting a distant memory, using an early 21-2 to take a commanding lead.
Villanova was able to overcome a season-high 20 turnovers thanks to about as wide a shooting disparity from the outside as you’re likely to ever come across. While the Wildcats were scorching hot from the perimeter (hitting 12-24 threes), the Hoyas couldn’t find their way to the rim with a road map, making just 1 of 17 attempts from behind the arc. Darrun Hilliard led the way with 15 points for the Cats, while Josh Hart (starting in place of Daniel Ochefu, who sat the first few minutes due to a minor academic issue) hit 3 of 4 threes on his way to 13 points.
Holding on to first place in the conference by a half game, the Wildcats hit the road this week where they’re 2-2 in Big East play this season. They have a real opportunity to create some distance for themselves in the standings, as Providence and Butler currently sit in 2nd and 3rd place. We’ll see if the Cats’ long-distance show can travel.
2 (2). Temple (17-7, 8-3 AAC)
Previous week: W 61-48 @ South Florida, W 61-60 @ Memphis
Upcoming week: Tuesday vs. Cincinnati, Saturday vs. East Carolina
The Owls extended their most recent winning streak to 5 games, thanks to both the smothering defense that’s become their calling card and some unexpected heroics. First, a big second-half push helped the Owls past South Florida, as Will Cummings scored a game-high 19 points to give him over 1,000 points in his Temple career. It was the fourth time this season Temple has held an opponent under 50 points and the third instance in their past 4 contests.
The real fireworks happened over the weekend down in Memphis. Sophomore Josh Morgan only had 2 points on the game, but they couldn’t have been bigger as his jumper with 6 seconds left propelled the Owls to victory. The win will certainly look good to the pollsters come Selection Sunday, as the Tigers have traditionally been very difficult to defeat at home over the years. Jesse Morgan dropped a team-high 16 points, making all 10 of his uncharacteristic 10 free throw attempts (he had attempted just 12 free throws total on the season prior to the game). The Owls will look to match their highest winning streak of the season (6) when they take on Cincinnati Tuesday night; the winner of that contest will assume sole possession of 3rd place in the AAC.
3 (3). La Salle (13-10, 5-5 A-10)
Previous week: W 64-62 vs. Richmond, L 66-59 @ Massachusetts
Upcoming week: Wednesday @ VCU, Saturday vs. Davidson
Thanks to some stout defense, La Salle was able to hang on to a double-digit lead against Richmond, despite a 10-minute period in the second half when the Explorers scored just a single point. With the lead trimmed all the way down to one, the Explorers finally righted the ship thanks to a balanced scoring attack. Jerrell Wright led the way with 15 points on 6-7 shooting, while Jordan Price went 6-11 for 13 points and Steve Zack recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
That balanced attack was nowhere to be found in La Salle’s loss to UMass. Jordan Price had himself a game, tying a career-high with 30 points to keep the Explorers within striking distance. However, he was the only player who finished in double figures for La Salle in what was ultimately a losing effort. They’ll need to regain their top form over the upcoming week in two very difficult match-ups: first, on the road against first-place VCU, followed by a visit from Davidson. the 5th highest-scoring team in the nation. The Explorers need to go on a roll here or they can kiss any hope of earning one of the top 4 seeds (and the corresponding bye in the A-10 tournament) goodbye.
4 (5). Drexel (9-14, 7-5 CAA)
Previous week: W 67-63 @ Elon, W 59-45 @ College of Charleston
Upcoming week: Tuesday vs. Towson, Sunday vs. Hofstra
Just a month ago when the Dragons sat at 2-11, you might have been thrown in a psych ward for professing they would make an impact in the Colonial standings this season. However, after Drexel extended its season-best winning streak to 5 games with a pair of road wins this week, the Dragons find themselves just two games out of first place in a conference race that suddenly looks wide open.
The best part for Coach Flint about this past week was he didn’t have to rely solely on the exploits of star Damion Lee. Lee did have a very nice game against Elon, recording 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Still, it was a balanced team effort that carried the day with Tavon Allen scoring 14 points on 6-11 shooting, and Sammy Mojica contributing 14 points as well. Then in Charleston, Lee actually had what might be considered a bad game (3-12 shooting), but the Dragons still won handily. The defense was excellent, holding the Cougars to 30% shooting, including 0-11 from three. Meanwhile, Tavon Allen played another efficient game, dropping 18 points on 4-7 shooting from three, while Rodney Williams was a factor on the interior with 10 points and 5 blocks.
If Drexel is going to start getting consistent production from sources other than Lee, the rest of the CAA will really have to take notice. Back at home for the next two games, the Dragons really have an opportunity here to seize the moment and completely dispel their horrendous start to the season from fans’ collective memory.
5 (4). Saint Joseph’s (10-12, 4-6 A-10)
Previous week: L 68-61 @ Saint Louis, W 58-54 vs. George Mason
Upcoming week: Wednesday vs. Rhode Island, Sunday @ Fordham
The Hawks began the week with a disappointing defeat, falling in overtime to a Rhode Island team that earned just its second conference win of the season. One game after scoring a career-high 20 points, Aaron Brown did himself one better, recording a game-high 21 points in the losing effort. DeAndre Bembry carried his usual share of the burden on both ends, registering 19 points and 12 rebounds. Bembry twice tied the game in the final minute of regulation to send the game to overtime. Unfortunately, that pair couldn’t get much going in overtime and no other Hawk scored in the extra frame.
St. Joe’s had a better time of things back on Hawk Hill, forcing 19 Patriots turnovers to overcome an off shooting night from the perimeter (2-13 from three). Bembry continued his A-10 player of the year campaign with 14 point, 11 rebounds and 3 steals. Brown, coming off the bench in the contest, was the only other Hawk in double figures with 11 points. The Hawks will next experience the best and worst the A-10 has to offer in a Rams-heavy week, taking on the first-place Rhode Island Rams before traveling to New York to grapple with the last-place Fordham Rams.
6 (6). Pennsylvania (7-12, 2-3 Ivy)
Previous week: W 71-69 @ Cornell, L 83-56 @ Columbia
Upcoming week: Friday vs. Yale, Saturday vs. Brown
A big second-half surge led by Tony Hicks helped the Quakers to their first road win in Ivy League play against the Big Red. Not only did Hicks score 20 of his 25 points in the second half to help Penn climb back into the game, but he also sank the game-winning jumper with 4 seconds left to seal the deal. The 25 points represent the first time Hicks scored more than 18 points since his 31 in the season opener against Delaware State.
Unfortunately, for as well as Hicks played against Cornell, that’s how off a night he had the next evening against Columbia. The junior went just 1-11 from the field for 3 points, while the Lions drained everything in sight, making 15 of 26 three-point attempts. The 83 points allowed by the Quakers tied their second-highest total surrendered on the season. The lone guy standing strong in the face of the Columbia onslaught was freshman Sam Jones, who hit 7 of 12 threes for a career-high 23 points. Jones is now shooting 47% from three on the season, one of the biggest bright spots on this young Penn roster. We’ll see if the Quakers can get everyone on the same page and string a few wins together starting this weekend back at the Palestra.