Villanova will look to close the regular season with a four-game winning streak on Saturday when they host No. 14 UConn in Philadelphia.
The Wildcats (16-14, 10-9 Big East) clinched the sixth seed in the conference tournament following a 76-72 victory at Seton Hall on Tuesday in Newark, N.J.
Should Villanova emerge victorious on Saturday, it would have defeated three ranked teams in its current streak.
The Wildcats posted a 64-63 win over then-No. 16 Xavier on Feb. 21 and a 79-67 victory over No. 19 Creighton last Saturday.
Justin Moore led the way against the Pirates with 23 points, including six free throws in the final 25.9 seconds.
“Our thought process always is to try to be the best team we can be by the end of the season,” Villanova first-year head coach Kyle Neptune said. “Hopefully, we can reach our goal. To do that, we’ve just gotta keep getting better and I think we are.”
One game after registering a career-high 31 points, Eric Dixon collected 18 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots versus Seton Hall. He also had a key steal in the waning seconds of the game.
“He has been unbelievable,” Neptune said of Dixon. “He’s scoring some points but really, he’s been really good defensively and on the glass. Early in the year, guys were going at him a little bit and now I don’t see that anymore. I think because he’s taken his game to the next level defensively, he has more confidence offensively.”
UConn (23-7, 12-7) will look to finish the regular season with five consecutive victories on Saturday.
The Huskies breezed to an 88-59 win over DePaul on Wednesday.
UConn is starting to resemble the team that began the season with 14 straight wins.
Adama Sanogo, who scored 26 points, was one of five Huskies to reach double figures. Tristen Newton added 12 while Andre Jackson Jr. contributed 11 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Alex Karaban also had 11 points and Donovan Clingan scored 10 in the balanced effort.
The Huskies already have clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
But there’s one more regular-season game looming against a hot team in Villanova.
“We’ve got a big game and an important, tough game on Saturday, but we also in the back of our mind know that we’re one of the few teams in the country that’s actually won a tournament — and a high-level tournament,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “So we’re gonna go into these tournaments with confidence.”
Sanogo produced 15 points by halftime as the Huskies reached 50 for the second straight game.
Hurley came away impressed with the ever-improving Sanogo.
“Adama has become so much more effective as an offensive player, outside of just like, ‘Throw me the ball in the post,'” Hurley said. “I think that’s helped a lot.”
Samson Johnson logged seven minutes, his first playing time since Feb. 4.
–Field Level Media