Wildcats go exploring

Kyle Stephan

Villanova basketball is in full swing as the Wildcats, ranked 12 in the country with a 6-1 record, square off against the unranked La Salle Explorers (5-3) on Dec. 12 at the Tom Gola Arena.

Villanova will match up against its second Atlantic 10 divisional opponent after defeating Saint Joseph’s University in the annual “Holy War” this past Friday, with a score of 71-60.

Here are a few key offensive and defensive storylines to note for the game between the Big 5 rivals.

Villanova on offense

The Wildcats took a hit when the University announced Monday that JayVaughn Pinkston would be suspended for the entire spring semester.

Senior Antonio Peña and sophomore Mouphtaou Yarou will look to lead the way in the frontcourt against the Explorers.

After some mediocre shooting this season, Head Coach Jay Wright and his coaching staff must look for much better guard play led by senior guard Corey Fisher and sophomore guard Maalik Wayns.

The ‘Cats have a dismal .438 field goal percentage, which is 177th in Division-1 basketball.

In the end, the Wildcats need to create smarter shots and continue to distribute the basketball instead of settling for 3-pointers.

Villanova on defense

Antonio Peña led the way defensively against Saint Joe’s last Friday, recording a double-double with 14 rebounds.

Villanova held the Hawks to 41 percent shooting and a mere seven free-throw attempts.

Still, the Wildcats looked sluggish at the end of the game, after the Hawks came within nine points with a minute left to play Friday night.

The ‘Cats will have to bear down and utilize their athleticism against the Explorers. La Salle has some experience led by senior guard Ruben Guillandeax and senior forward Jerrell Williams. In any Big 5 matchup, tensions and expectations will be high.

La Salle on offense

La Salle is led by the intimidating sophomore center Aaric Murray, and all 6-feet-10-inches and 250 pounds of him will be aimed at dominating the paint on Sunday in his home arena. La Salle scores about 77.5 points per game (55th overall) but shoots smart as a team with an overall field goal percentage of .487 (28th overall).

Guillandeaux and senior forward Jarrell Williams help lead the Explorers in points with 17.1 and 13.5, respectively.

The La Salle roster is cluttered with players shooting around .400 or .500 from the floor, so do not dismiss this affair as a push-over game.

La Salle on defense

Aaric Murray again leads the Explorers, averaging almost a double-double with 17.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and around three blocks per game at center.

Sophomore Devon White is second on the team with around 1.5 blocks, while Williams hauls in about eight rebounds.

Villanova’s guards will need to run the offensive and distribute the ball to the open man around the height of the Explorers.

After sinking a few outside shots and establishing a post game, the ‘Cats need to test the La Salle defense early and often, creating intermediate range shots and finding holes for layups.


Either way you look at it, this is not a team the Wildcats can simply overlook.

La Salle has some quality talent, and its three losses have all come against either ranked teams or their recent thrilling double-OT loss to Oklahoma State.

Nevertheless, with Villanova’s athleticism, ‘Nova Nation should look for a hard fought win and hope the ‘Cats take care of business as they prepare for Big East competition.