In the early going, it looked like the 2013 edition of the Holy War would be another tightly contested contest at Hagan Arena, but the Villanova Wildcats left no doubt as to who the better team was on Saturday night, beating the St. Joseph's Hawks by a score of 98-68.
The veteran leadership carried the 'Cats through a hostile Hagan Arena tonight, as JayVaughn Pinkston (27 points, 8 rebounds) , James Tahj Bell (25 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists), and Darrun Hilliard (14 points, 2 assists) all were at the top of their games for Jay Wright. Pinkston had one of the best games of his Villanova career, tallying six and-1 plays on the night.
Behind some solid three-point shooting from Langston Galloway, Daryus Quarles and DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph's (PA) jumped out to an early lead in the first half. But Hilliard and Pinkston, who had his way with Halil Kanacevic all night on both ends of the floor, and Hilliard, carried the Wildcats through the first half for a 39-35 lead. Jay Wright was very impressed with Pinkston's defensive effort on Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts Jr.
"That was the best defensive game of his [Pinkston's] life. In the first half he guarded (Halil) Kanacevic on the perimeter. In the second half he guard (Ronald) Roberts inside. I was so proud of him - he was really big defensively and then had an outstanding game offensively."
The 'Cats would finish the half with just 1 turnover, and weathered the storm well.
As soon as the whistle sounded for the second half to begin, it was all Villanova. Hilliard and Pinkston opened the half with three-pointers, before Bell began to take over with his outside shooting. The senior finished 5-9 from beyond the arc en route to a dominating double-double. We've been saying it all year, but Bell's ascent into stardom on this 'Nova squad is breathtaking to watch.
As a team, 'Nova shot 9-16 from beyond the arc in the second stanza.
The story of the game was Villanova's calm demeanor in the face of a raucous Hagan Arena. Despite some early jitters, 'Nova turned the ball over just 5 times in the entire contest, and Jay Wright's brilliant rotation kept his players fresh, while wearing down the thin St. Joseph's (PA) bench. Wright cited Villanova's increased understanding of the system as a key.
"This is probably our best basketball IQ team. We're running the same things. It just looks a lot better."
Phil Martelli disagreed with the depth concerns, but did acknowledge Villanova's impressive showing.
"I don't think their depth wore us down. It was their quality of play."
This gameplan should come in handy for Jay Wright when Villanova has to head to tough environments like Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse (on NYE no less), and Creighton's CenturyLink Center later this year during BIG EAST play.
Ryan Arcidiacono wasn't overly efficient from the field again (11 points on 4-12 FG), but he seemed more in control, and knocked down the wide open jumpers he was given. Dylan Ennis wasn't as electric as he was in The Bahamas, but pushed through some first half struggles on defense to finish with 6 points and 2 assists. Tony Chennault dished out 3 assists, but was otherwise non-impactful.
Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins started shakily in their first Holy War, but Hart went inside for a couple of tough buckets late in the half, while Jenkins knocked down a 3 to settle the freshmen's nerves and they were fine from there on out.
St. Joseph's (PA) had no answer for the 'Cats 59-point second half outburst of, and for yet another year, the Hawk remains a firm six-feet under ground.
Jay Wright Postgame Press Conference