In a blowout 81-52 win over St. Joseph’s at the Pavilion, No. 6 Villanova has won 10-straight against the rival Hawks since 2012. It is also the Wildcat’s ninth-straight double-digit win against St. Joe’s. With the victory, Nova’ improves to 6-2 overall and 3-0 in Big 5 play.
In the first half, the game was closer than the final score might indicate.
Following a Jordan Hall jumper for St. Joe’s, Villanova’s once-15-point cushion became just six with 4:08 left in the first half.
The Wildcat’s early struggles were mostly a result of turnovers, as they had seven in the first half alone which stifled their offensive momentum. In comparison, Villanova had nine total turnovers against Penn.
But, Collin Gillespie woke up the offense and hit back-to-back 3s to push the lead back to 12 to give Nova’ a 34-22 lead at the half. The fifth-year senior guard had 23 points in the game and shot an impressive 7-of-12 from the field.
The Wildcats did not look back in the second half, as they battered the Hawks with a three-point barrage and ended up going 13-of-25 from behind the arc.
A big reason for this second half explosion was Justin Moore’s emergence.
In the first half, Moore was cold and went 0-for-4. However, he then proceeded to shoot 6-of-9 in the second half and score 16 points to go along with seven rebounds.
Moore’s impact was not only felt on the offensive side of the ball though, as he defended well and helped keep St. Joe’s sharp-shooting Taylor Funk scoreless.
Coming into this game, Funk was averaging 19.2 points per game, and Villanova head coach Jay Wright recognized Moore’s effectiveness guarding Funk.
“Justin is really our best defender,” said Wright. “We always play him on the best player, so he carries a lot of responsibility. He was outstanding.”
When asked how he specifically shut down Funk, Moore explained that the key was to simply know where Funk was at all times.
“[Funk’s] a great player who moves well without the ball, so it was important to see the ball and also see my man who’s coming off the screen,” said Moore. “I just had to sprint hard and keep up with him and stay connected to him. It was something we worked on to prepare for this game and it worked out.”
Bolstered by his great defense and rebounding, Moore was never discouraged by his slow offensive start.
“We take pride in our defending and rebounding,” said Moore. “We’re not worried about our shots going in and I’m not worried about it because that’s going to take care of itself. As long as I’m rebounding, playing hard, playing team defense, and communicating out there, everything else is going to take care of itself.”
Along with Moore and Gillespie, scoring in double figures for the Wildcats were Brandon Slater, Jermaine Samuels, and Eric Dixon. The Hawks stood little chance facing this balanced offensive attack, and they did no favors for themselves with their abysmal three-point shooting.
St. Joe’s shot 23% from deep, with Funk in particular going 0-5. In the paint, the Hawks had a bit of success from Vanderbilt transfer Ejike Obinna, as the center scored eight of his 10 points in the first half.
Yet, with great help defense, Obinna had minimal impact in the second half, and St. Joe’s had to look elsewhere for points.
Scoring was eventually found with Hall, as the sophomore guard had 22 points and five assists for the Hawks. However, with only two total bench points and Funk becoming a non-factor, Hall’s effort was nowhere near enough to stop ‘Nova.
Despite Villanova’s decisive win and general supremacy among the Big 5 teams, Wright does not take these games for granted.
“We know the capability of these teams,” said Wright. “So we never come into these games thinking ‘it’s over’. If we’re off a little bit against one of these teams we’re going to be beat. And I really respect our team’s intelligence that they know that.”
On Tuesday, Villanova will move away from Big 5 play for the time being, as the Wildcats take on Syracuse (4-3) at Madison Square Garden.