PHILADELPHIA — Josh Hart had 26 points and nine rebounds, Donte DiVincenzo scored a career-high 20 points and No. 4 Villanova beat St. John’s, 92-79, last night.
Kris Jenkins added 15 points for the Wildcats (22-2, 9-2 Big East), who have won three in a row since a 74-72 loss at Marquette on Jan. 24. Mikal Bridges had 14 points and Jalen Brunson finished with 12.
Marcus LoVett led St. John’s (11-14, 5-7) with 23 points off the bench, and Bashir Ahmed had 15 points and seven rebounds before fouling out with 8:18 left. Shamorie Ponds also had 15 points for the Red Storm, who have lost 14 in a row against the Wildcats.
Playing in front of a packed house at Wells Fargo Center, Villanova dominated from the start, with St. John’s missing its first 12 shots. The Wildcats scored the first 10 points of the game and led 16-2 with 11 minutes to go in the first half, and 32-9 with 6:40 left.
LoVett got the Red Storm’s first bucket with 12:34 left in the first half.
Malik Ellison had five points in a 12-4 St. John’s run to close the first half with the Storm trailing 46-28.
“They kicked our butt in the first,” Storm coach Chris Mullin said. “In the second half, I thought we came out and showed a little more resistance, but when you have a lead like that it’s hard to overcome.”
Employing a frenzied full-court press that contributed to Villanova’s season-high 23 turnovers, St. John’s opened the second half on an 11-2 run to make things a little more interesting. But Brunson responded with a three-pointer to help keep Villanova comfortably ahead.
Jenkins, the hero of last season’s national championship run, was held out of the starting lineup due to recent struggles but checked in just three minutes into the game.
The Red Storm has alternated wins and losses in its last six games, with two of the three losses in that stretch versus ranked teams.
Villanova shot 51.8 percent for the game, including 9-for-25 (36 percent) from three-point range. The Wildcats were 25-for-27 at the free-throw line.
St. John’s was 11-for-15 at the free-throw line, but was a respectable 10-for-25 on threes.
“[We need to] get a little older, get a little stronger and have some continuity,” Mullin said. “You have to wait and be patient.”— AP