December 22, 2014

After needing overtime to beat a longtime rival, Villanova faces another potentially tough challenge against a significantly less-established program that's already upset one ranked opponent this season.

Looking to go 12-0 for the first time in 53 years, the No. 7 Wildcats host NJIT on Tuesday night.

Villanova overcame a 15-point first-half deficit by shooting 54.2 percent in the second and beating Syracuse 82-77 in overtime Saturday. The Wildcats felt the scare could prove beneficial down the road.

''We'd like to come in and win by 15, 20 every game, but it's not going to happen,'' said sophomore guard Josh Hart, who scored a career-high 21 points off the bench. ''We need these kind of games to prepare us for conference (play), prepare us for April.''

Though Villanova found its touch in the second half, it finished at 41.9 percent for the game after shooting 50.1 in the previous seven contests. It didn't help that Syracuse went 17 of 27 from the field in the first 20 minutes.

''We didn't come into the game with the focus that we should have,'' coach Jay Wright said. ''But, over a season, that's going to happen some games.

"I am happy we got to play that game. We needed that. I don't think we are there yet."

Villanova hasn't opened with 12 straight wins since 1961-62, which would leave them just shy of the school-record 13-0 start in 1937-38.

Though the Wildcats have won 17 straight non-conference home games, they might not have an easy time in this final test before opening Big East play against Butler on Dec. 31.

Eight years after attaining Division I status and playing its first game against a Top 25 team, NJIT (5-7) stunned then-No. 17 Michigan 72-70 at Ann Arbor on Dec. 6. Though that defeat might have lost some significance considering the Wolverines have dropped three straight since, the Highlanders shot 58.7 percent and hit 11 of 17 from 3-point range.

''I may appreciate winning more than anyone in the country,'' NJIT coach Jim Engles said. ''When I go into a season - and I hate to say it this way - it's hard to win.''

The Wildcats saw firsthand how competitive the Highlanders can be in a 70-60 home victory Dec. 28, 2012. Ryan Arcidiacono scored a team-high 17 points, JayVaughn Pinkston added 10 off the bench and Daniel Ochefu pulled down 11 boards as Villanova overcame 30.8 percent shooting by forcing 19 turnovers it turned into 23 points.

NJIT guard Ky Howard (13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds per game) had eight boards, three points and three assists in that contest. Against Michigan, he had 17 points, six assists and five rebounds while sophomore Damon Lynn (17.5 ppg) scored a team-high 20 and went 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.

The Highlanders have split four games since beating the Wolverines. They avoided a third straight defeat by shooting 53.4 percent in Saturday's 84-76 victory at Central Connecticut State. Lynn went 5 of 10 from 3-point range as NJIT was 10 of 22 from behind the arc.

Pinkston recorded his first double-double of the season with 25 points and 10 rebounds against Syracuse, and Hart has totaled 41 points and shot 11 of 14 in the last two contests.

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