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Villanova takes care of business against feisty St. John’s at MSG

A career night from Shamorie Ponds wasn’t enough as Donte Divincenzo stole the show at MSG

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at St. John Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova got the best shot of a now 0-6 St. John’s team on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, but were able to close it out at the end to win 78-71.

Shamorie Ponds had a career-high 37 points and added seven rebounds, but Villanova’s Donte Divincenzo came off the bench and tied his career-high of 25 points. He made 6-9 from deep to steal the show late.

Divincenzo scored 25 points in one other game in his Villanova career and it came against St. John’s at the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals last season. The sophomore continues to play big against the Red Storm.

Why does Divincenzo seem to own the Red Storm at MSG?

“I honestly don’t know,” Divincenzo said with a smirk after the win.

“That’s the last thing I look for when I come into the game,”Divincenzo said on scoring off the bench. “I come off the bench and try to bring energy.”

The big difference in the game came on the three-point line. Villanova made 13-30 from downtown adding up to a 43 percent clip while St. John’s made 1-12 from deep. Just eight percent.

“That was one of those ugly road victories that you have to take,” Nova Coach Jay Wright said. “I thought they were outstanding defensively on our guards. We never got into sync all night. Ponds was incredible. The only thing we did well was guard the three, but not him.”

St. John’s did force 17 Villanova turnovers and outscored the Wildcats 40-18 in the paint, but it was not enough.

“This effort will get us wins,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “They are the number one team in the country. That’s winning basketball. We will get there.”

Mullin was on his phone for parts of the postgame presser and put his hands on his face while his players answered questions. While looking frustrated his team is 0-6, his players also tried to keep things glass half full.

“We are trying to keep a positive mindset,” Marvin Clark II said. “It’s adversity. We are in a rut right now. Once we get that first win, we will taste blood and go on a run.”

Villanova struggled at times on the offensive end, but still scored 78 points and did enough to win it late. It’s just another sign that the top team in the country may not have reached its potential yet. That is a scary thought for just about everyone else.

“This is a potent offensive team,” Wright said. “St. John’s did a really good job and we still scored 78 points. It is one our better offensive teams.”

St. John’s will continue its search for that first Big East win, but it doesn’t get any easier as Xavier in Cincinnati is up next.

Meanwhile, Nova improves to 4-1 in the conference to keep pace with others at the top of the Big East standings. Up next for the Wildcats is trip down to DC for a matchup with Georgetown.