December 12, 2015

After a rough outing thousands of miles away from home, Villanova returns to a far more familiar and comfortable surrounding.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats vie to bounce back from a lopsided loss and maintain their recent Big 5 dominance when they host La Salle on Sunday night.

Villanova (7-1) wasn't up to the challenge in its first big test of this young season, struggling on both ends in a 78-55 drubbing from No. 7 Oklahoma in Monday's Pearl Harbor Invitational in Hawaii. The Wildcats were a dreadful 4 of 32 from 3-point range and shot 31.7 percent overall while failing to slow down the Sooners' potent offense.

Oklahoma opened on a 15-3 run and kept the Wildcats at bay behind a 14-of-27 performance from beyond the arc.

''We have not started well any game this season and to do it against a team like that and to try to come from behind against a team like that, you're going to be in trouble and that's what happened,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

One of the nation's best teams from the perimeter last season, the Wildcats have made a Big East-worst 28.6 percent of their 3-pointers thus far. The offseason losses of current Detroit Piston Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis have proven difficult to overcome, particularly with Josh Hart having trouble finding consistency in his new role as the go-to scorer.

Hart, the 2014-15 Big East sixth man of the year, is 4 for 23 from 3 in four games since a career-high 27-point effort against Akron on Nov. 22. The junior shot 46.4 percent on 3-pointers last season.

Additionally, forward Kris Jenkins is 6 for 30 from beyond the arc in the last four games.

The Wildcats were clicking offensively in an 86-72 victory at St. Joseph's on Dec. 1 that extended their Big 5 winning streak to 11 games. Their last loss to a Philadelphia-based school was a 76-61 defeat to Temple on Dec. 5, 2012, 10 days after being dealt a 77-74 overtime loss to a La Salle team that reached the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 that season.

The Explorers (4-3) are just 36-35 since that remarkable run, however, and enter The Pavilion off home losses to Hofstra and previously winless Drexel.

"I don't think in my lifetime I have done a worse job in coaching," coach Dr. John Giannini said after the Explorers' 66-53 loss to Drexel last Saturday. "I don't think we are where we should be as individuals or as a team, and that's completely on me."

La Salle does possess one of the nation's top scorers in Jordan Price (25.9 points per game), though the Auburn transfer was held to 5-of-14 shooting by Drexel after amassing a career-high 37 points against Hofstra.

Villanova also held Price in check in last season's matchup with La Salle, limiting him to 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting in an 84-70 victory for its 12th win in the series' past 13 games.

The Explorers have lost five straight at The Pavilion since a 61-58 overtime win Nov. 27, 2001. Villanova has won 30 in a row overall at its on-campus arena.

La Salle lost 80-64 at Penn on Nov. 25 in its Big 5 opener. The Explorers were 2-2 in the intracity series last season.

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