The Saint Joseph’s Hawks had a big second half resurgence, but their comeback bid wasn’t big enough to overtake the Villanova Wildcats.
The ‘Cats entered with a seven-game winning streak over the Hawks, as the Big 5 rivalry has been dominated by the blue and white ever since the Halil Kanacevic incident. At first, Villanova looked well on its way to easily extend that streak, as it got off to a fiery start.
However, the Hawks managed to temper the flames, rallying in the second half. Despite a hard-fought effort by St. Joe’s, Villanova was able to hold off its Big 5 rival to improve to 2-0 in round robin play and win 78-66.
Even though the ‘Cats shot just 4-of-17 from long range, as a team, they pounced all over their opponents from opening tip, finding plenty of success with an up-tempo style of play and with a tough defensive effort.
Villanova pushed its lead to as high as 17 points, late in the first half, with the Hawks unable to provide an answer.
The Wildcats took a 41-25 lead at the break.
In the second half, the Wildcats started to slow things down. St. Joe’s began to chip away at the deficit, following the lead of Delaware transfer and local product Ryan Daly, who racked up 22 of his game-high 32 points in the second half alone. After being slowed down by a number of different ‘Cats, he was able to break free after halftime to lead a St. Joe’s rally.
Cameron Brown topped off a 13-3 run for St. Joe’s to start the second half, burying a three-pointer that would make it a single digit game.
Villanova responded by gaining some separation, until St. Joe’s started closing the gap once again.
Anthony Longpre knocked down a jumper to make it 50-46, with 11:44 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats would call time out to settle in and buckle down defensively. They built their lead back up, until the Hawks came charging once again.
Villanova would fend off another scoring spurt by the Hawks, as a Brown three-pointer made it a 63-60 game, with 4:54 left to play.
That would be the closest St. Joe’s got to catching the ‘Cats, as ‘Nova would make a series of key free throws down the stretch to preserve the lead and win the game.
Saddiq Bey led Villanova with 22 points, nine rebounds, and a pair of assists. Colling Gillespie added 20 points. Jermaine Samuels chipped in 12 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks. Justin Moore came off the bench and provided 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
As a team, the Wildcats shot 27-of-55 (49.1 percent) overall and 20-for-22 (90.9 percent) from the free throw line.
Villanova improves to 7-2 overall, and it will resume action next Saturday, when it takes on the Delaware Blue Hens at the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark’s Prudential Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.