No. 4 Villanova crushes St. Joseph’s
PHILADELPHIA — Villanova coach Jay Wright didn’t mince words when asked how his team won on Saturday by a whopping 41 points in a rivalry game on the road.
“They had two starters out and we played great,” Wright said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Mikal Bridges scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Phil Booth added 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists and fourth-ranked Villanova extended its Big 5 winning streak to 20 in a row with a 94-53 win over Saint Joseph’s in what is known as the “Holy War” at Hagan Arena.
Jalen Brunson contributed 14 points for the Wildcats, who improved to 8-0 overall and 2-0 in games involving the Philadelphia Big 5. Omari Spellman had 16 points and 11 rebounds, though much of his statistics came in the waning minutes.
The Big 5 winning streak was never in doubt.
“I just learned from the older guys when I got here,” Booth said. “I knew how hard it is to play in this environment.”
The Wildcats diffused the crowd with red-hot shooting, going 19 of 35 from 3-point territory.
“We came ready to play,” Wright said.
James Demery paced Saint Joseph’s with 14 points while Taylor Funk added 13. Chris Clover had 12.
The Hawks had their brief two-game winning streak snapped and fell back to .500 at 4-4.
“They’re trying to win every play,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “We didn’t play at every position to win. We played to play. I’m not knocking us.”
Villanova started strong in the second half with five quick points — a jumper by Eric Paschall and a deep 3-pointer by Bridges — for a 19-point lead at 46-27.
Booth later connected on a trey and Bridges did the same and suddenly the Wildcats’ lead was 55-29 with 17:16 remaining, forcing Martelli to take a timeout. The Wildcats knocked down five of their first six shots, and the victory was never in doubt.
“We didn’t have enough answers at the offensive end,” Martelli said.
The lead swelled to 86-50 late in regulation on a 3-pointer by Collin Gillespie. The Wildcats hit 10 of their first 16 3-pointers in the second half to assist in the 36-point lead. At one point, they hit 10 consecutive treys — five in the first half and five in the second.
“I knew we were on a streak,” Wright said. “I didn’t know it was 10.”
Demery converted a conventional three-point play late in the first half to get the Hawks within 29-27.
But the Wildcats responded in a huge way with four consecutive 3-pointers by three different players — Booth, Bridges and two by Spellman — for a 41-27 advantage. Spellman had been starting but was benched for the first few minutes by the coaching staff as a result of missing his targeted weight by 1.2 pounds. Donte DiVincenzo started in Spellman’s place.
The Wildcats took a 41-27 lead into the locker room and quieted what had been a raucous sellout crowd.
Booth led all first-half scorers with 13 points as the Wildcats shot 52 percent — 16 of 31.
“I think he set the tone,” Wright said of Booth.
Saint Joseph’s shot just 11 of 30 — 37 percent.
NOTES: Villanova next has a difficult matchup against No. 15 Gonzaga Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in New York. ... Villanova coach Jay Wright picked up his 394th career victory at the school. ... Saint Joseph’s played without key injured players Charlie Brown (left wrist fracture) and Lamarr Kimble (left foot). Kimble is out for the season. ... The Hawks are off until next Saturday when they travel to face Big 5 foe Temple. ... Villanova leads the all-time series against Saint Joseph’s 49-23 with a 3-1 record at Hagan Arena. ... The Hawks’ last win in this series came on Dec. 17, 2011.