The men’s basketball team will travel to Villanova on Friday to take on Big East rival and No. 9-ranked Wildcats before returning to the Prudential Center for three straight home games.
The Pirates are coming off of an impressive road win against Xavier, holding the Musketeers to their lowest scoring total at home all season and snapping their 13-game home win streak.
After the win, the Pirates improved to 4-5 in the Big East and 13-9 overall.
They also joined No. 20 Creighton and Villanova as the only Big East teams to win three conference road games.
Senior Fuquan Edwin had three steals in the game against Xavier and scored a team-high 18 points, which helped him land a spot on the Big East Weekly Honor Roll earlier this week. The Pirates forced 13 turnovers overall.
Sophomore Sterling Gibbs, who also had three steals against Xavier, said that the team has to keep the momentum going. “It comes down to playing together,” Gibbs said.
“To go to Xavier and win was huge. Now we have to build upon that.”
Villanova, who also played their most recent game against Xavier and came out with a win, is on a four-game win streak, three of which were road wins.
The Wildcats are 8-1 in the Big East, with their only loss coming against Creighton. The Wildcats only have two losses overall (20-2), falling to Syracuse earlier in the season.
Seton Hall faced Villanova earlier this season (Jan. 8) and lost the match-up, 83-67, at home. The Pirates were missing several key starters for that game as center Eugene Teague and seniors Fuquan Edwin and Aaron Geramipoor were all sidelined with injuries.
Junior forward Brandon Mobley said having the trio back will make a difference. “Having Gene (Teague) and Aaron (Geramipoor) back for this one is big because Pat (Auda) and I can get back to our natural positions at the four- spot,” Mobley said. Senior Brian Oliver played well in the loss, scoring a game-high 20 points.
Sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs also played well, scoring 13 points and a career-high 8 assists. He also added six rebounds and three steals to his solid performance.
The Pirates had trouble keeping possession of the ball in the previous match-up, with 16 turnovers for the game.
Villanova was dangerous from behind the arc, hitting five of its first seven 3-point attempts, which put the Pirates in a hole. Junior guard Darrun Hillard led the way to victory for the Wild- cats with 19 points and four 3-pointers.
Hillard and teammate senior James Bell showcased the Wildcats’ ability to score and persevere earlier this week against Xavier, leading a 53-point second half, which propelled the Wildcats to victory. Bell finished with 27 points, 21 of them coming after the half, and Hillard finished with 17 points, 15 of which came after intermission.
Villanova also showed their defensive strengths, limiting the Musketeers to 20-of-53 shooting and creating 16 turnovers.
Freshman guard Jaren Sina said that preparation will be the key to beating Villanova this Friday. “This is crunch time now in the Big East,” Sina said. “Friday is a huge opportunity for us, and it comes down to our focus in practice this week.”
Tip-off at Villanova is set for 7 p.m. on Friday.
Courtney Hnasko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.