Hart, DiVincenzo lead Villanova past St. John’s 92-79
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Less than a week ago, Donte DiVincenzo’s only bucket at the Wells Fargo Center came right at the buzzer.
Six days later in the same arena, the redshirt freshman reeled off 11 straight points in an impressive flurry.
DiVincenzo scored a career-high 20 points, and No. 4 Villanova beat St. John’s 92-79 on Saturday night.
Josh Hart had 26 points and nine rebounds and 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.
“There’s a lot of attention on Josh and Kris,” DiVincenzo said. “They just found me for some baskets early.”
Marcus LoVett led St. John’s (11-14, 5-7) with 23 points, 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 the home of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Villanova dominated from the start, with St. John’s missing its first 12 shots. LoVett finally got the Red Storm’s first bucket with 12:34 left in the first half, but the Wildcats then reeled off a 14-3 run highlighted by DiVincenzo’s quick transition buckets and two 3-pointers.
DiVincenzo, who set his previous career high with 19 in Villanova’s last meeting with St. John’s on Jan. 14, had 15 points in the first half to help the Wildcats to a 46-28 lead at the break. The redshirt freshman had a buzzer-beating putback in Villanova’s last game at the Wells Fargo Center — a 61-59 win over Virginia last Sunday.
“Donte is athletic, he’s fast,” Hart said. “He’s amazing in transition. Whenever we get a rebound, we want to look up and he does a great job running.”
Employing a frenzied full-court press, St. John’s opened the second half on an 11-2 run to make things a little more interesting. But Brunson responded with a 3-pointer to help keep Villanova comfortably ahead.
“They kicked our butt in the first half, no question,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “I thought we came out and showed a little more resistance in the second half. But when there’s a lead like that, it’s hard to overcome.”
St. John’s: After going 1-17 in the Big East last season, the Red Storm continued to show improvement under Mullin in his second year. They have alternated wins and losses in their last six games, with two of the three defeats in that stretch coming vs. ranked teams.
Villanova: The Wildcats held steady in first place in the competitive Big East and should move up in the national rankings with No. 2 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas both losing on Saturday.
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.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he did it to “loosen him up” and was pleased with Jenkins’ final line of 15 points, five rebounds and four assists.
HOLD ON TO THE BALL
Villanova finished with a season-high 23 turnovers after committing 20 against St. John’s in a 70-57 win last month.
“They just play harder than us,” Wright said. “Those turnovers come from little things.”
WELLS FARGO DOMINANCE
Villanova won all four of its games at the Wells Fargo Center this season and have won 17 of their last 19 games at the Sixers’ home arena.
St. John’s has a week off before hosting Seton Hall next Saturday.
Villanova will play its first game on campus in three weeks, welcoming Georgetown to the Pavilion on Tuesday.