Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Tough road ahead for Villanova

Villanova´s James Bell. (Laurence Kesterson/AP)
Villanova's James Bell. (Laurence Kesterson/AP)
Villanova´s James Bell. (Laurence Kesterson/AP) Gallery: Tough road ahead for Villanova

Like its brethren in the new Big East, Villanova has found itself traveling a lot and facing several quick turnarounds from one game to the next. That routine continues in the next seven days with a brutal stretch of three road games in succession.

The sixth-ranked Wildcats travel to DePaul on Wednesday. After returning and spending a couple of days on campus, they head to 18th-ranked Creighton for a Sunday showdown in Omaha of the top two teams in the league, and then travel back East about 1,300 miles for a Tuesday night clash at Providence.

The three-game stretch away from the Main Line will be the Wildcats' second in less than a month.

"We'll take it one game at a time," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "But we know it's out there and the only way you can approach that is just get the first one, and then whatever happens in the first one, you learn from it and then you move on.

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  • "Going to DePaul has always been a tough place for us to play. We've been in overtime games there, we've lost there. So that's the next challenge."

    The Wildcats have won five in a row. In their last three games, they've run away from their opponents in the second half while capitalizing on their depth.

    "Guys like Tony [Chennault] and Dylan Ennis bring us good energy," Wright said. "While they're doing that, our starters are sitting and they're fresh."

     

    Sweet sweep

    It's been a rocky season for Penn, but coach Jerome Allen hopes that its Palestra weekend sweep of Cornell and Columbia can get the Quakers playing more consistent basketball.

    "Winning helps the overall spirit," Allen said. "It helps us as far as our ability to buy into the details even more. It pushes us to continue to strive to correct things. It's great that we got the sweep, but last weekend isn't really going to do a lot for us in terms of us getting ready for this Friday" at Yale.

    The Quakers shot 57.8 percent from the field in the two games. Senior Fran Dougherty had a pair of double-doubles and was named co-player of the week in the Ivy League.

     

    Veteran presence

    Drexel coach Bruiser Flint has had to roll the dice with some freshmen this season because of injuries, but one of his stabilizing forces has been his most veteran player - sixth-year senior Chris Fouch.

    Fouch, who sat out his entire first year with a knee injury, and saw his 2012-13 season end after three games because of a broken ankle, is the Dragons' top scorer with an 18.7-point average and has drained 59 three-point baskets. But Flint says he brings so much more.

    "He's a guy that fights every day," Flint said. "He's been through a lot from a physical standpoint and still goes through it. . . . I think he's had the type of season where he should be a first-team all-conference player. That's saying a lot given the injuries, and some of the lingering injuries that he's going to have pretty much for the rest of his life."

    Fouch is fifth on Drexel's all-time list with 1,623 points.

     

    Pushing ahead

    Temple coach Fran Dunphy admits that the Owls' continuing struggles "wear on you a little bit" but that there's nothing his team can do but look ahead to deal with a brutal part of the American Athletic Conference schedule.

    The Owls' game Thursday night against Louisville is the first of five straight against opponents currently ranked in the Top 25. On the horizon are Southern Methodist (home), Connecticut (home), Memphis (away), and a rematch against Louisville (away).

    "We're trying our best to be as good a forward-thinking group as we possibly can be," Dunphy said. "It's now just worrying about the task ahead, and for us it's a pretty tough week with Louisville and SMU."

    Thursday's game has been designated a "White-Out" at the Liacouras Center, with T-shirts being handed out to the first 8,000 fans.

     

    Getting over it

    Usually, most teams that lost in the manner that La Salle did against then-No. 13 St. Louis last weekend would want to play again right away to wash away the bitter taste. Unfortunately for the Explorers, they have to wait until Saturday before taking on St. Joseph's.

    But coach John Giannini says he feels his veteran team will bounce back quickly and not dwell on the 65-63 defeat.

    "It's a veteran team," he said. "I think we'll do a good job of just focusing on St. Joe's and moving ahead."

     

    Defensive chops

    If there's such a thing as a streaky Atlantic Ten schedule, that's the way it's been for St. Joseph's. After five straight games - four against teams ranked in the RPI Top 50 and the other at Dayton, one of the league's toughest road venues - the Hawks now play five in a row against teams ranked below 50.

    However their opponents are ranked, the Hawks need to pile up as many wins as possible to find themselves in the conversation for postseason play. While St. Joseph's dropped a chance to move up after losing to St. Louis, they captured a big win Saturday night over VCU.

    "I mean this with all sincerity - we had a chance to really enjoy participating in the Atlantic Ten last week," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. "You play a team like St. Louis where they make it difficult to dribble, pass, or shoot. Then you play VCU, which plays so aggressively for 40 minutes.

    "It's different styles, but both are national level teams. It makes you appreciate the opportunity."

     


    jjuliano@phillynews.com

    @joejulesinq

    Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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