Villanova and La Salle both have key perimeter players in seniors Corey Stokes and Ruben Guillandeaux, respectively. The former New Jersey high school teammates seem to be stepping up.
The guards will play against each other for the final time Sunday when the 12th-ranked Wildcats try to extend their eight-game win streak over the Explorers.The 6-foot-5 Stokes scored a career-high 34 points to lead Villanova (7-1) to a 65-53 victory over Pennsylvania on Wednesday. He went 5 for 9 from 3-point range and raised his scoring average to 16.0 to take over the team lead from Corey Fisher, who sat out the first 2:15 for disciplinary reasons."We have not been shooting the ball well from 3," coach Jay Wright said. "(Corey) has been decent with that but he hasn't had one of the kinds of games which we've all seen where he really gets it going."The 6-6 Guillandeaux similarly sparked La Salle (6-3) in its last game, an 84-81 victory at Boston University on Thursday. He scored 21 points on a night in which leading scorer Aaric Murray fouled out with 12 in 15 minutes."If someone would have told me that Aaric would have only played 15 minutes and they would have hit 13 3s, I would have said we didn't have a chance," coach John Giannini said. "But this team has found a way to compete and win close games."Guillandeaux is posting career highs with a 15.9 scoring average and a 49.5 shooting percentage. He missed last season's 81-63 loss to Villanova with a stress fracture in his right foot and has played poorly in three losses to the Wildcats, making 1 of 16 shots for a total of seven points.Stokes has not fared well against the Explorers, averaging 9.0 points and 40.0 percent shooting in three games. He made 2 of 8 shots for nine points last season, when La Salle got double-doubles from Murray and Jerrell Williams and held a 51-34 rebounding edge.The difference in the game proved to be 27 turnovers by the Explorers that led to 29 points for the Wildcats.Fisher had a career-high six steals in that game, and he figures to be back in the starting lineup after logging 37 minutes Wednesday. Not starting seemed to affect him since he made 1 of 6 shots for four points."He got in an argument with me Sunday at practice," Wright said. "You don't do that when you're a senior leader."The Wildcats lost sophomore guard Maalik Wayns, averaging 11.5 points, when he hit his head on the court while drawing a charging foul with 1:22 left in the first half."We were just being overly cautious," Wright said. "He banged his head. The doctors checked him and we could have put him in there. We were just being extra cautious."Wright's first loss as Villanova coach came against La Salle, 61-58 in overtime on Nov. 27, 2001. He has since led the Wildcats to eight straight wins in the series.Prior to his arrival, the Philadelphia Big 5 rivals split 50 meetings.