The No. 8 Villanova Wildcats (7-0) beat the St. Joseph's Hawks 86-72 in the first true road game for the 'Cats of the young season.
The Villanova Wildcats got off to a rough start in their initial Big 5 matchup against St. Joseph's in their rivalry game known as 'The Holy War.' Villanova drained 11 3-pointers and sank 13-of-15 free throws to make an early statement amongst the Philadelphian field. Even when the top-ranked defense on KenPom.com struggles, which the Hagan Arena crowd saw the most points allowed by the Wildcats all season, these Wildcats can flat out score.
The Cats were led by juniors Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart who had 18 points, six rebounds and three assists, and 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists respectively. Not to be left behind, Ryan Arcidiacono chipped in 17 points, three rebounds and three assists of his own to help the 'Cats to their fourth consecutive win in the historic series.
The Hawks lost their second game of the year and first at home.
Villanova was reeling early as senior captain Daniel Ochefu picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds of the game. Their interior D showed some gaps but their perimeter shooting and any-player-can-do-it-all mentality would have to carry the day.
Jay Wright boldly inserted 'Chef with 13 minutes left in the first half, only to see Nova's lone true center pick up his 3rd with 31 minutes left to be played. The Wildcats responded to this adversity by heating up from downtown. Successive threes by Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart put the 'Cats up by 12 at the 9:22 mark in the first.
St. Joe's knew the weakened state in which the Wildcats were placed when Daryl Reynolds and Ochefu were on the bench. In response, they attacked the rim and crowded the lane at every opportunity but struggled to execute. Meanwhile, the Wildcats were shooting 49 percent at the break.
Kris Jenkins showed promise on both ends of the floor, a steal and layup, sweet inside spin and a few silky-smooth shots from the perimeter found Jenkins leading the Wildcats at the half with 12 points and 3 boards. The Hawks were leading heavily on DeAndre' Bembry who showed why he is an early contender for A-10 Player of the Year. The junior forward had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting.
Villanova survived an early second half surge from the Hawks that saw their lead dwindle to as few as five. The number 8 team in the county showed worthy of their lofty ranking as they built their lead to its highest all game at 18 with 31 seconds left to play. And after that, it was all she wrote, as Villanova is now one step further to a third consecutive outright Big 5 title.