It was another installment of “The Holy War,” otherwise known as the rivalry between Villanova and St. Joseph’s University. Both teams are a part of the Big 5 and have one of the more premier rivalries in the organization of Philadelphia-area schools. In recent history, Villanova has dominated the rivalry. Maybe it’s karma, bad luck, or just something haunting the St. Joe’s Hawks. After all, ever since Halil Kanacevic infamously flipped off the Villanova student section, St. Joe’s hasn’t won a game. Looks like they’re cursed.
The hawk died today – not only did it die, but it was ran over, stomped on, and obliterated in almost every aspect of a basketball game. It took a little while to get things started, but once they got it going, they never looked back. Both teams almost went two and a half minutes without knocking down a shot. A layup by Daniel Ochefu provided the first few points of the game. Villanova would get out to a quick 8-0 start until the Hawks finally responded with a layup by Chris Wilson with 15:32 remaining in the game. The Wildcats would answer back with a series of threes. First Josh Hart knocked one down from long range, then Kris Jenkins hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to give the Wildcats a double-digit lead. On defense, they were able to keep St. Joe’s star player, DeAndre Bembry, in check. Bembry was held to five points in the first half off of 2-for-7 shooting. As they kept Bembry at bay, it allowed them to continue executing their game plan with ease. On offense, they stuck to their wonderful ball movement that allowed every Wildcat on the floor to be involved in scoring. The Wildcats were getting it done from the perimeter, but they also made their shots in the post. A Darrun Hilliard three-pointer temporarily extended the lead into the twenties, before St. Joe’s went on a little run of their own.
The Hawks were able to cut into the deficit, bringing it down to as far as 12 points towards the end of the first half. The Wildcats were able to shake off their mini-slump and put an end to the St. Joe’s spurt. Darryl Reynolds sent a nice pass over to Dylan Ennis, who suck a basket from long range to bring the Wildcat lead back to 20. Ennis’ basket would be the last one of the half, Villanova took a 44-24 lead going into the break.
Sharp defense and great shooting accounted for their big lead going into the intermission. The Hawks shot 36% on the floor and even worse from beyond the arc, with 1-for-6. Meanwhile, Villanova was 8-for-15 from long range and a great 46.9% overall. Ryan Arcidiacono was quiet on offense, but found other ways to contribute. The junior guard dished out four assists and stole the ball three times. Daniel Ochefu was also limited in the first half, but for other reasons. Ochefu was in foul trouble throughout the first half and for the rest of the game. Even with these two not doing much, it was great to see Villanova maintain a big lead.
The second half wasn’t any better for St. Joe’s. Villanova slowed things down a little bit, but was able to build and nurse their lead. The Hawks were only 26.5% overall, and could not make a single three pointer. Since everything had worked out so well for them in the first half, Jay Wright didn’t make that many modifications to his game plan. There was no need to, Villanova was simply too much for their Big 5 rivals. Their superb ball movement resulted in a number of nice dunks and alley-oops that got the Pavilion rocking. St. Joe’s couldn’t get a rhythm going at all and Villanova kept proving with each nice play that they already had it in the bag during the first half. The Hawks’ Isaiah Miles fouled out rather early in the second half, with 12:58 remaining. The Wildcats flirted with a 30-point lead in the second half, but it didn’t last long. It didn’t matter though, as Villanova would have the last laugh.
Every Wildcat got a piece of the action, the Bench Mob came in around the two minute mark. Patrick Farrell drilled a corner three off the assist by Phil Booth. Even with the big blowout lead, Nova Nation shared their praises loudly for all of campus to hear. St. Joe’s Brendan Casper made a layup that added the last two points of the game. Villanova would inbound the ball and just dribble out the clock, finalizing the latest battle of the Holy War. The final score was 74-46.
“Our greatest assets is our depth. I wouldn’t say we have one guy who carries the team instead we have eight who could carry it any day,” said Jay Wright after the game. The Wildcats spread the wealth around. 40 of their 74 points came from their bench. Josh Hart accounted for a team-high 12 points, while Kris Jenkins added 11. Darrun Hilliard added another 11 points. Villanova received a number of other steady contributions that helped the winning effort.
Villanova improves to 8-0 and will head back to the bright lights of New York City. The Wildcats will take on Illinois at Madison Square Garden for the Jimmy V Classic. It’s primed to be another top 25 matchup. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.