PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/4/2017 – It was a night for some old school Saturday night college basketball as the #4 Villanova Wildcats hosted long-time rival Red Storm of St. John’s.
Then, new school took over. Villanova wanted a shake up in the lineup, and started Eric Paschall for Kris Jenkins. Coach Jay Wright wanted Jenkins to come off the bench to get him going as he failed to score in double figures over the past three games. It had the desired affect early for the team as the Wildcats started fast and earned a 92 – 79 over the Red Storm at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I wanted him (Jenkins) to come off the bench firing,” said Wright. “You look at his line, it’s great. We wanted to loosen him up and get going again.”
“It’s exactly how we wanted him to play, just get him going. He will start the next game.”
Jenkins finished the game with 15 points shooting 4 for 10 from the floor and 2 of 6 from beyond the arc while making all 5 free throws. Jenkins also pulled down 5 rebounds and handed out 4 assists.
Villanova started the game scoring the first 10 points. St. John’s missed their first 12 shots and were held without a point for over 7 and a half minutes. The Cats cooled off and the Storm got some footing. Enter Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo who scored 10 straight points within a minute and a half to spark Nova to a 25 – 4 lead with 9:25 on the clock. The lead would grow to as many as 26 points in the opening stanza. Villanova took a 46 – 28 lead into halftime.
But the Johnnies were showing signs of life. After their horrendous shooting start, the converted 11 of 22, that’s good shooting. It continued into the second half when they crawled to within single digits at 51- 42 at the 15:46 mark. The Cats ended the suspense by going on a 15 – 4 run over the next four and a half minutes keyed by Jenkins and Josh Hart to lead 66 – 46.
“It was one of those games where it is tough to play with a lead,” said Wright. “We got sloppy and we have done this where we let the team get close in those two losses. We have not played well with a lead. When it got to nine, we made shots. There is more to it than just making shots.”
Hart scored a game-high 26 points to go along with 9 rebounds and a game-high 5 assists in his final Wells Fargo appearance as a collegian.
“I didn’t realize it was my last one here,” Hart said. “Whenever you are playing in an arena like this, it’s amazing. Our fans come out each and every year. It went by really fast.”
DiVincenzo posted a carer-high 20 points. His previous career-mark of 19 was set against St. John’s on January 14. The sophomore guard made 7 of 11 from the floor and pulled down 7 rebounds, tying his career-best.
“They paid a lot of attention to Josh and Kris,” DiVincenzo said. “I had to get out and get running.”
Mikal Bridges added 15 points and Jalen Brunson got 12.
Still, there were concerns for Wright as St. John’s forced 23 turnovers which led to a 33 – 25 edge in points off turnovers. Coach wants to see a consistent forty minutes of basketball.
“It’s been our challenge all year to put forty minutes together,” Wright said.
“I’m concerned about our consistency and about our toughness. I’m concerned about turnovers.”
The Red Storm finished the game making 29 of 67. Four St. John’s players finished in double figures led by Marcus LoVett with 23 points. Bashir Ahmed and Shmorie Ponds scored 15, while Federico Mussini contributed 11.
The Wildcats improve to 22 – 2, 9 – 2 in conference. They’ll face a similar foe in Georgetown on Tuesday at the Pavilion.
Written By: Glenn Papazian