The Villanova Wildcats opened their 2017 Big East Tournament stint with a bang on Thursday afternoon, defeating the St. John’s Red Storm, 108-67. This marks the first time in school history that Villanova reached triple-digits in a Big East Tournament game, with its previous high being 96 against Pittsburgh in 1997, a game which went to double overtime.
Donte DiVincenzo led the way with 25 points for the victorious Wildcats while Kris Jenkins chipped in 24. DiVincenzo and Jenkins were hot from outside the arc, going a combined 10-19 (Each player made five). 25 marks a career-high in points for DiVincenzo while 24 is a season-best for Jenkins.
DiVincenzo and Jenkins were both quick to credit their teammates for their strong performance, “Going into the game I was confident, but the only thing I can say about the 25 is it's all because of the seniors and Jalen [Brunson], E [Eric Paschall], everybody was making the right play and I found myself open and I was knocking down shots.” DiVincenzo noted.
“I just have to give a lot of credit to my teammates. They do a great job of making the right play. And like coach said, Josh [Hart] set the tone for us defensively. When your best player does that, then everybody else, it's easy for them to fall in line.” Jenkins would add
Big East Player of the Year Josh Hart did a little bit of everything, as he so often does, leading ‘Nova with six rebounds to go along with 15 points and five assists. Dylan Painter also set a career-high in rebounds with six, as Jay Wright gave Painter a bit more leeway as he experiments with his lineups and rotations heading into the postseason.
In fact, the only thing that went wrong for the Wildcats today with Mikal Bridges coming down with a stomach virus. Bridges started the game but was removed in favor of DiVincenzo after just one minute of action and he didn’t return. There was no update after the game, but it’s safe to assume Bridges will play once he’s feeling better.
Bashir Ahmed and Marcus LoVett each had 12 points for the Red Storm.
St. John’s had the look of a team who had played a high-emotion game just 18 hours ago because, well, they did. However, head coach Chris Mullin didn’t use that as an excuse, saying, Quick turnaround, but that had nothing to do with it. Villanova is one of the best teams in the country. And we welcome that. That was a good position to be in, to be able to play in today's game. So no regrets.”
Villanova will advance to the Big East Tournament semifinals on Friday night for the third straight season where they will face the winner of Thursday afternoon’s Marquette/Seton Hall game.