The #4 Villanova Wildcats closed out their home slate at the Wells Fargo Center with a shaky 92-79 win over the St. John’s Red Storm to complete the season sweep of the Johnnies. The ‘Cats entered the game after an ugly win at Providence looking to get back on track and stay perfect at home in the process.
This game was similar to the first meeting between these two teams as the ‘Cats turned it over 23 times this time around after having 20 TOs in the first match-up. They also won the battle on the glass in a big way as they finished the game +15 after being +18 in the last meeting. The ‘Cats finished the game shooting 51.8% from the field while holding the Red Storm to 43.3%. Josh Hart led the way with 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists along with 6 turnovers. Donte DiVincenzo added a career high 20 points off the bench while Kris Jenkins had 15.
In a surprise move, Jay Wright replaced the struggling Kris Jenkins in the starting lineup with Eric Paschall. The Johnnies won the tip, but after forcing a quick turnover, the red hot Mikal Bridges put the ‘Cats on the board with a straight away 3. The Nova defense was stifling early, forcing turnovers and contested jumpers. The Red Storm started the game 0-12 and didn’t score until the 12:30 mark on a Marcus LoVett breakaway layup.
Kris Jenkins entered the game at about the 17 minute mark and immediately had a baseline drive and kick for a Bridges 3 to give Nova an 8-0 lead. Both teams went cold for the next 4 minutes until Jalen Brunson extended the Nova lead to 10-0 with 13 minutes left in the half.
Star freshman point guard Shamorie Ponds picked up his third foul on a charge with 12 minutes left and immediately went to the bench for the rest of the half. Nova took full advantage going on a 12-3 run behind 10 straight Donte DiVincenzo points (He loves seeing that Johnnies red!). The ‘Cats jumped out to a sloppy 26-8 lead with about 8 minutes left in the half.
Big Smoove finally got going with a tough corner 3 for his first made field goal of the game at the 7 minute mark. On the ensuing play, Jenkins grabbed a rebound and rifled a 3⁄4 court outlet pass to Donte for a 3 point play to put the ‘Cats up 32-9.
The Johnnies finally started to find their stride offensively as LoVett got out in transition for a layup and then knocked down a big 3 to cut the lead to 35-16, forcing Jay Wright to call a timeout.
Josh Hart struggled early in the half as the length and athleticism of the Red Storm really bothered him at the rim. The national player of the year candidate broke out of the slump with a 3 ball at the 6 minute mark and added an old fashioned 3 point play just a few possessions later.
The Wildcats got very sloppy at the end of the half with multiple turnovers that allowed St. John’s to get back into the game. The Red Storm went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 44-28 after the ‘Cats held a 26 point lead. Josh Hart knocked down two free throws after a stupid St. John’s foul with 10 seconds left in the half to send the game to halftime 46-28 ‘Cats.
Nova shot 48% from the field in the half while holding the Johnnies to 32%. The ‘Cats struggled to take care of the ball with 11 first half turnovers. Donte DiVincenzo led the team with 15 points at the half while Mikal Bridges quietly added 10 points of his own. Josh Hart bounced back from early struggles with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists, but shot 3-10 and had 4 turnovers. With Darryl Reynolds in early foul trouble, freshman Dylan Painter got into the game for a quick stint to end the half.
Kris Jenkins was back in the lineup to start the second half as Darryl Reynolds sat in foul trouble. Shamorie Ponds picked up his 4th foul 40 seconds into the half, but that didn’t stop the Johnnies from jumping out on an 7-0 run to start the half to cut the lead to 46-35. Junior guard Bashir Ahmed knocked down a deep 3 and then finished a layup off another Nova turnover forcing Jay Wright to call a timeout after the slow start to the half.
The ‘Cats missed four straight 3 pointers to start the half and really struggled against the athletic St. John’s trap. Big Smoove finally got them on the board after getting fouled on a hard drive and knocking down a pair of freebies 3 minutes into the half. The Red Storm countered with 2 straight buckets to cut the lead to single digits at 48-39.
The ‘Cats finally started to connect from deep as Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart knocked down 3s on back to back possessions. At the under 15 media timeout, Nova led 54-42. Big Smoove came out of the timeout looking for buckets as he knocked down an NBA 3 and then finished a drive high off the glass to extend the lead to 59-44.
After a Johnnies bucket, Nova had enough of letting them hang around. The ‘Cats scored 7 straight points fueled by a DiVincenzo 3 to push the lead back up to 20. They took control of the game from there as they slowly increased the lead to 77-54. Dylan Painter got back into the and sent the crowd into a roar when he was on the receiving end of a flagrant foul with 6 minutes left in the game. Painter knocked down the first freebie and chants of “Dylan Painter” broke out at the Wells Fargo Center.
Donte DiVincenzo knocked down a mid-range jumper with 3:30 left to set a new career high of 20 points! The Michael Jordan of Delaware loves playing against the Johnnies as his previous career high was 18 at MSG earlier this season.
While the game appeared to be over, the Red Storm kept on fighting. They scored 10 straight points after multiple turnovers by the ‘Cats, cutting the lead to 87-74 with just over a minute left. Jay Wright called timeout immediately and gave the refs a piece of his mind until they finally T’d him up. The Red Storm continued their comeback cutting the lead back to single digits at 87-78. It was a valiant effort, but too little too late as the ‘Cats closed out the game with some free throws to win it 92-79.