Louisville

The Cardinals have had an excellent week, earning tough victories against two high-caliber Big East foes. This past Saturday, Louisville traveled to Philadelphia and found a way to survive a physical encounter with No. 17 Villanova, upending the Wildcats 61-60. Senior forward Terrence Williams, who finished the game with a double-double, proved to be the difference in this contest, scoring the deciding basket with 7.4 seconds left in regulation. Junior swingman Earl Clark contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds.

On Monday, host Louisville defeated a versatile Notre Dame team, 87-73. The game was tied after regulation, but Louisville caught fire in the overtime period, outscoring the No. 13 Irish 16-2. Williams had yet another terrific game, finishing with 24 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists, nearly a triple-double. William’s performance may have overshadowed the smothering Cardinals’ defense, which held reigning Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody scoreless over the last 11 minutes of the game.

Despite stumbling early on this season, the Cardinals have rebounded tremendously. The Cardinals stand at 12-3 and are 3-0 in the Big East play. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals can carry their recent momentum into Saturday’s highly anticipated matchup against the top-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers. As long as Williams, Clark and freshman standout Samardo Samuels keep improving, the Cardinals will remain a team that nobody wants to face.

Next: vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.; at GU, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.

Villanova

The Wildcats failed to earn a much-needed quality win on Saturday, falling to Louisville 61-60. The end of the game accurately reflected Villanova’s apparent inability to capitalize on its opportunities thus far, as the Wildcats not only missed a number of critical free throws down the stretch, but also missed two easy potential game-winning layups with under five seconds left in the game. Villanova has yet to earn a win against a ranked opponent, something that can potentially damage its postseason aspirations. The No. 23 Wildcats currently stand at 13-3, but are tied for ninth in Big East play at 1-2. If Villanova is to live up to its preseason expectations and put itself in a position for a March run, the Wildcats must find a way to improve their standing in the loaded Big East.

Senior forward Dante Cunningham, who led the Wildcats with 21 points in their loss to the Cardinals, along with Junior Guard Scottie Reynolds, who dropped 40 points in last week’s victory against Seton Hall, are carrying the scoring load for this experienced bunch. If the Wildcats are to maintain a level of success, however, they must get more consistent play from experienced guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher, who contributed just a combined 12 points against Louisville.

Next: vs. St. John’s, Saturday, Jan. 17 at noon; at GU, Feb. 28 at noon

West Virginia

After cruising through the end of their non-conference agenda, the Mountaineers looked unstoppable, primed for their brutal Big East schedule. West Virginia’s prior momentum has certainly slowed, however, after dropping two consecutive Big East games. Last week the Mountaineers lost a close battle against Connecticut, and on Saturday they were thoroughly routed by No. 14 Marquette. With those two losses, the previously 22nd-ranked Mountaineers fell out of the Top 25 and into a tie for ninth in conference play at 1-2.

This week West Virginia ventured outside of the conference to play a less-talented Marshall squad, earning a much needed 87-76 victory over its instate rival. The win allowed the Mountaineers to regroup and hone their skills for the rough Big East schedule that awaits them. Freshmen Darryl Bryant and Kevin Jones were both very effective in this game, with Bryant leading the team with 22 points, and Jones racking up a game-high eight rebounds. The Mountaineers should even their conference record this Saturday against South Florida before gearing up for Thursday’s showdown at Georgetown. West Virginia will be looking for vengeance after last season’s loss at home against the Hoyas, which was decided by a controversial block by Patrick Ewing Jr. as time expired.

Next: vs. South Florida, Saturday, Jan. 17 at noon; at GU, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.

arquette

The Golden Eagles have continued their surge to the top of the Big East standings and are on a seven-game tear as they prepare for a Rhode Island showdown with Providence Saturday. Senior guards Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal are sizzling right now, averaging just over 18 points each and can cause problems for any starting five in the league. While Marquette’s “Big Four” – Matthews, McNeal, senior guard Dominic James and junior forward Lazar Hayward – is filling the stat sheets, the team’s depth is starting to become a concern. The “Big Four” have accounted for more than 80 percent of Marquette’s scoring this year, and outside of those four players, the highest scorer is sophomore guard Jimmy Butler at 4.1 points per contest.

In a dismantling of then-No. 22 West Virginia last Saturday, the Eagles used a huge second-half push to overcome a two-point halftime deficit. The victory kept them undefeated in the Big East at 4-0. McNeal erupted for 26 points and Marquette took care of business at the free-throw line, hitting on 24-of-27 chances at the charity stripe. The win propelled the Eagles to No. 14 in both major polls.

Next Game: Saturday, Jan. 17 at Providence; vs. GU, Jan. 31, 2 p.m.; at GU, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.

Pittsburgh

Rebounding and physical play have characterized the undefeated and top-ranked Panthers so far this season. They have outscored opponents by an average of nearly 20 points while holding foes to just under 59 points per game. At 4-0 in the Big East, they only have two wins that can be considered impressive. Wins on the road at Georgetown and at Florida State are r̩sum̩-builders, but the rest of their schedule has been relatively soft. Despite how dominant Pitt has been, they have been relatively untested Рsomething that will change as they enter the heart of their Big East schedule. The Panthers play Louisville on the road tomorrow and will host Syracuse on Monday.

In two easy wins over St. John’s and South Florida over the past week, sophomore forward DaJuan Blair continued his beastly play on the boards, grabbing a combined 33 rebounds in the two contests. His big frame has caused major problems for opposing frontcourts and he has the ability to change games on both ends of the court. Senior forward Sam Young continues to shine, averaging 18.9 points per game, while senior guard Levance Fields is doing a stellar job orchestrating the offense, posting averages of 10.3 points and 7.1 assists.

Next: at Louisville Saturday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.; at GU, Jan. 3, W 70-54

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