PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/2/2017 – A Saturday night in Philadelphia, a Big Five game, a nationally televised game. It had the makings of an exciting evening of college basketball. The Hawk faithful were ready at the Hagan Arena. But so were the #4 Villanova Wildcats who earned a 94 – 53 victory over Saint Joseph’s. The Wildcats improve to 8 – 0 on the season and win their second Big Five game.
“We played well,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “We didn’t take the first shot or the next shot, we took the best shot, and I am proud of our guys.”
“They are trying to win every play,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli about Villanova’s effort. “If they (the Saint Joe’s team) want to know what the top looks like, the top of the Atlantic 10, the top in the city, that’s what it looks like.”
The Wildcats were wildly efficient on offense. They made over half of the shots taken, assisted 24 times on 33 field goals. The Wildcats hit 19 of 35 three-pointers, a season-high in made trey’s, and 14 threes were assisted buckets. Four Villanova players scored in double figures led by Mikal Bridges with 18 points, and he added 9 rebounds, a career-best. Phil Booth scored 17 and handed out a game-high tying 6 assists, a season-mark. Jalen Brunson had 17 points, 6 assists, and 8 rebounds. Amari Spellman recorded his second double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He set a career-best in points and tied his high in rebounds.
“This happens from our defense,” said Bridges. “We got stops, keep looking for each other, and make shots. Being unselfish, we find each other.”
On defense the Hawks were held to 32.8% shooting, and were outrebounded by an 49 – 28 margin. SJU converted 5 of 24 from beyond the arc.
The game was the hoped for cliffhanger in the first half. Saint Joseph’s got to within two at 29 – 27 on a three-point play by James Demery with 3:41 remaining in the first half. Villanova scored the next 12 points to halftime to lead 41 – 27. The Wildcats extended the run by 18 – 4 on a three-pointer by Bridges. Nova made good on 8 three-pointers in the run.
“We said in the huddle, we have to weather this thing,” Wright said. “They’re are coming at us, and we have top keep battling for forty minutes. At the start of the second half, we hot some threes and that broke it open.”
“The spurt in the second half, we knew it, but we couldn’t answer it,” Martelli said.
Nova has won the last six games in the series and look to a contest against Gonzaga in New York. Saint Joe’s has another Big Five contest next week at Temple. Villanova will look to continue their winning streak at twenty in city series games.
“I learned from the older guys when I got here how important these games are, how hard it is to play in them, taking it to another level,” said Booth.
Written By: Glenn Papazian