By Drew Dalton (@dutch4885)
With a sold-out Hagan Arena ready to explode as the underdog Hawks closed to within just 5 points midway through the second half, the 8th-ranked Villanova Wildcats remained calm and put the ball in their senior co-captain’s hands.
Just minutes before, the Wildcats (7-0) had matched their biggest lead of the game on freshman phenom Jalen Brunson’s 3-pointer from the left wing that made it 52-37 with 17:28 left in the contest. St. Joe’s (4-2) senior forward Isaiah Miles (14 points) answered, however, with seven straight points during a 12-2 run that pulled the Hawks within that five-point margin, 54-49.
Then, as he’s done time and time again throughout his Villanova career, Ryan Arcidiacono, this time on a kick-out from Brunson, drained a pivotal 3-point basket to quell a furious comeback attempt by the home team. A few minutes later, the Wildcats would go on an 11-4 run to stretch the lead to 13, and the Hawks would never cut the deficit to single digits the rest of the way. The Wildcats cruised to victory in the annual “Holy War” against Big Five rival St. Joe’s, 86-72, on Tuesday night.
“It’s a really good St. Joe team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said, as noted by Joe Juliano for Philly.com. “They were very well-prepared, it’s not a surprise. It was a tough environment and a good team. So you come out of that with a win and you feel good about your team and we can definitely build on this. This is a good win.”
St. Joseph’s played Villanova fairly even across the board, with the deciding factor basically coming down to prowess from the three-point line, where the visiting Wildcats made 11 triples compared to just 6 for the Hawks. Arcidiacono finished 3-4 from behind the arc for 17 points, while junior Josh Hart hit 2 of 6 and continued his spectacular season by filling the stat sheet with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Pro prospect DeAndre’ Bembry undoubtedly impressed the multiple NBA scouts in attendance, recording 17 points on 8-18 shooting, and playing all 40 minutes to help keep his Hawks in the game. St. Joe’s also received a career-high 9 assists from sophomore point guard Shavar Newkirk, and 13 points off the bench from James Demery.
Villanova will travel out to the West Coast to have an open-practice for alumni in California later this week, as they prepare for one of their headlining out-of-conference opponents, the 6th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners on Monday, December 7th. The game will be played in Hawaii and tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST.