Villanova (13-7) at Notre Dame (16-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 30, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center (9,149) -- South Bend, Indiana. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: VU 8-3, UND 12-2. Away Record: VU 4-3, UND 2-1. Neutral Record: VU 1-1, UND 2-1. Conference Record: VU 4-3, UND 4-3. Series Record: Villanova leads, 18-15.
GAME NOTES: Having recently picked off a pair of nationally-ranked foes, the Villanova Wildcats continue their current stretch against the best the Big East Conference has to offer, as the team heads west to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Wednesday evening.
Villanova gave head coach Jay Wright his 250th victory at the school by upsetting No. 3 Syracuse in overtime this past Saturday, 75-71. That win came just four days after the Wildcats stunned No. 5 Louisville, 73-64, marking the first time in regular season history that VU knocked off a pair of top-five (AP) teams in the same week. The 'Cats are just a game over .500 on the road this season (4-3), and they've lost their last two away from the Main Line.
Notre Dame fell out of the Top-25 following a week in which it went 1-1, losing at home to Georgetown (63-47) and winning at South Florida (73-65). Overall, the Irish have dropped three of their last five games, two of which have occurred in South Bend -- their first home losses of the season. UND owns the same league ledger as Villanova (4-3), but its wins have come against foes with a combined 10-20 conference record, while its losses have been to clubs posting a combined 12-9 mark.
Villanova owns an 18-15 lead in the all-time series with Notre Dame, but the Irish have won four of the last six meetings. The Wildcats are 6-3 all-time in Big East games played in South Bend.
Darrun Hilliard was nearly perfect in last Saturday's shocker against Syracuse, as the Villanova guard shot 8-of-11 from the field, knocking down 3- of-6 3-pointers along the way, in netting a game-high 25 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists for the Wildcats, who made good on 42.1 percent of their total shots, including 9-of-27 long-range launches. VU logged a 50-41 rebounding advantage, and won the game even while turning the ball over twice as often at did the Orange (14-7), and being outscored by the visitors at the foul line (24-18). Mouphtaou Yarou was credited with a double-double consisting of 14 points and 16 rebounds, while James Bell added 13 points and eight boards, and Ryan Arcidiacono chipped in 10 points, and was instrumental in getting the game to overtime as it was his 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left in regulation that tied the score at 61-61. Syracuse shot just 33.3 percent from the field for the game, while Villanova turned the trick at 42.1 percent. Villanova has three double-digit scorers on the roster this season, led by key reserve JayVaughn Pinkston (13.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Arcidiacono is next with 11.7 ppg, and Hilliard checks in at 10.8 ppg for a team that typically generates 69.9 ppg while permitting 66.7 ppg.
Jerian Grant scored 18 points and handed out eight assists in leading Notre Dame to a come-from-behind win at USF, but he wasn't alone in being the only Irish player to make a significant contribution. Tom Knight was nearly perfect from the field (8-of-10) in netting 17 points to go with seven rebounds, while Eric Atkins tallied 13 points and four helpers, Pat Connaughton chipped in a dozen points, and Jack Cooley pulled down 14 caroms for a UND squad that shot a sizzling 54.0 percent from the field, doubled up the Bulls on the glass (34-17), and held the hosts to just 6-of-21 shooting from beyond the arc. USF led at the break, 35-28, but was outscored in the second half, 45-30, due in large part to its .385 FG percentage and UND's .600 effort. Cooley (14.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg) has done it all for coach Mike Brey's club this season, and he heads a list of three players averaging double figures in the scoring column, that figure climbing to four in conference games. Grant (12.8 ppg) and Atkins (12.0 ppg) can not only score, but combine to hand out more than 12 of the team's 18.2 assists per outing. Connaughton (9.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.6 apg) also helps the Irish produce 73.1 ppg, which they do by draining 50 percent of their total shots, which includes nearly 40 percent of their 3-point tries. Defensively, the team yields 62.0 ppg, with foes shooting just 40.9 percent from the floor.
As big a week as Villanova had, winning a pair of games in front your rabid fan base is much different than upending a very good team on the road. The Wildcats are sure to put their best foot forward, but expect the Irish to send them packing in what should be a highly-entertaining Big East battle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Notre Dame 69, Villanova 64
01/30 10:40:10 ET