St. Joseph's enters its annual game against archrival and third-ranked Villanova riding a four-game losing streak and struggling under the boards.

However, you can bet that Wildcats coach Jay Wright won't allow his players to be fooled into a false sense of security for tonight's nationally televised clash at the Palestra, especially remembering what happened in 'Nova's previous two matchups against the Hawks.

The Wildcats (8-0) have won 20 of their last 21 City Series contests. Their only loss during that time came in their most recent game against St. Joe's at the Palestra, a 77-55 battering on Feb. 4, 2008.

Then, a year ago, Phil Martelli's Hawks fought the No. 15 Wildcats down to the buzzer at the Pavilion. They held a one-point lead with 16.9 seconds left, but Darrin Govens missed the front end of a one-and-one. Scottie Reynolds then hit the tying and go-ahead free throws and 'Nova went on to a 59-56 victory.

"That was a classic," Wright said after the game. "When I was a Big Five fan, I loved them. Now as a coach, I don't love the classics."

Villanova won its two previous Big Five games this season, against Penn and La Salle, holding those opponents to 35 percent shooting. The Hawks (3-4) are making their 2009-10 debut in the City Series.

One difference tonight could be rebounding. The Wildcats own a rebounding margin of plus-8.7 compared with minus-7.4 for St. Joseph's. 'Nova's Antonio Pena is averaging 10.6 rebounds per game.

Reynolds leads Villanova in scoring with an average of 15.3 points. Govens, who recently scored his 1,000th career point, is the Hawks' top scorer at 12.1 points per game; Garrett Williamson is right behind him at 11.9.

If Villanova prevails, it can wrap up its 21st Big Five championship - marking the sixth straight time it has won or shared the title - with a victory Sunday at Temple.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.