NCAA

Strong bench play powers No. 3 Villanova past St. John's

Strong bench play powers No. 3 Villanova past St. John's

NEW YORK – Nobody can say the Wildcats don’t have a bench after this game.
 
For most of the day, that’s all they had.
 
With the starters sputtering and No. 3 Villanova in danger of losing at to a St. John’s team with a losing record, reserves Donte DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall came off the bench and combined to make 11 of 16 shots for 28 points to go with seven rebounds as the sloppy Wildcats held off scrappy St. John’s 70-57 at Madison Square Garden (see instant replay). 
 
With senior superstars Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins combining to shoot 5 of 23 overall and 3 of 13 from three, DiVincenzo shot 7 for 10 from the field and 3 for 5 from three for a career-high 19 points, and Paschall made 4 of 6 shots for nine points.
 
Villanova’s five starters combined for 13 baskets (on 37 shots), DiVincenzo, a red-shirt freshman, and Paschall, a red-shirt sophomore, combined for 11 baskets (on 16 shots).
 
“We all want to set a tone and start the game off, and when we don’t do that, it’s comforting to know that we have Eric, we have 'Tay (DiVincenzo), two guys who could start in a lot of programs, coming off the bench, bringing incredible energy,” Hart said.
 
“That’s something we always know we have and something that makes the team what it is. When the seniors are slipping up and we’re not playing Villanova basketball and not playing the way we should be playing, we know the young guys are going to step up and bring us energy and get us going.”
 
St. John’s, a young and inexperienced team in its second year under Chris Mullin, scored the game’s first six points and led most of the first half while it looked like the defending national champs were sleepwalking.
 
“A hundred percent we didn’t bring it, and that’s on the three seniors, Kris, Darryl and myself,” Hart said. “We have to set a tone. We have to be examples for these guys, and that’s something that we didn’t do.
 
“'Tay and Eric came off the bench and brought energy, but that’s something that we can’t have continue, especially going down the stretch. We have to find it within ourselves to be committed to Villanova basketball and bring it from the start for 40 minutes, and that’s something we didn’t do today.”
 
With St. John’s leading by six late in the first half, it was DiVincenzo who scored eight points in four minutes to spark a 19-7 run to close out the first half and give the Wildcats the lead for good.
 
But this was still a five-point game at 53-48 with 6 and a half minutes left before Villanova finally pulled away and built the lead as large as 17.
 
“That was an example of a young, hungry team just playing harder than a veteran team and wanting it a little more,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
 
“They just took it to us. Disappointed in our effort and impressed with St. John’s impressiveness and tenacity … and we didn’t respond. They’re just young. They’re going to be good. I hope we can learn from this and play better.” 
 
This was the first time in Villanova’s last 33 games that neither Hart nor Jenkins scored 12 points. Last time it happened? St. John’s at the Garden a year ago.
 
But that team had Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, who bailed out Jenkins and Hart with 38 points.
 
This team does not have that kind of depth.
 
At least, they didn’t until now.
 
“'Tay played 31 minutes, Eric played 26 minutes – they’re playing starter minutes,” Hart said.
 
“They brought it every day in practice last year when they weren’t able to get out there and play for us, and this year they’re doing it in practice but they’re also doing it in games now.
 
“Those two guys aren’t looked at anybody in this program as bench players., They’re looked at as guys we rely on and guys who have big roles, and it’s good to see them bring energy and get us going.”
 
DiVincenzo took a red-shirt year after breaking his foot eight games into last season. Paschall red-shirted in 2016 after transferring in from Fordham, where he was Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year in 2015.
 
DiVincenzo’s previous career high was 13 points against Central Florida and Penn. Paschall scored as many as 31 points in a game at Fordam, but his previous Big East high was eight points at Creighton.
 
For both to record Big East career scoring highs at Madison Square Garden in a game where the 'Nova starters were uncharacteristically ineffective is definitely an encouraging sign for the Wildcats.

When Villanova needed them, they showed up in a big way.
 
“Donte, no one on our team is surprised by that, but it’s good that other teams see that and it’s good that he’s doing it in games, on the road,” Wright said. “Getting Eric going is important for us.
 
“Kris and Josh and Jalen (Brunson) have been in so many games and they’ve carried us so many times that we know we got that. But the next thing that those guys have to learn is that some nights, when teams try to take them out of it, they’ve got to make plays for their teammates. And Josh has done that a lot. We’ve just got to get the other guys doing it.”
 
Villanova is now 17-1 overall and 5-1 in the Big East. The Wildcats have now won three straight games since their only loss of the year, at Butler on Jan. 4. They’re 35-3 in their last 38 games and a Division 1-best 114-14 in four years with Hart and Jenkins on the floor.
 
With its fourth straight loss, St. John’s fell to 8-11 overall and 2-4 in the Big East.
 
Thanks in large part to the only two guys who played Saturday who weren’t part of last year’s championship run.
 
“I think we’re a good team now, but I think we could be a great team if we all play that way,” Hart said.
 
“Seniors set the tone and start the game and then we have guys come off the bench and there’s no dropoff. So we’re happy we have those guys, we just have to get everyone to bring that energy from the start.”

Villanova stays at No. 5 in AP poll; Temple receives votes

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Villanova stays at No. 5 in AP poll; Temple receives votes

A week where Villanova barely had to break a sweat has Jay Wright and his Wildcats holding steady in the latest AP poll.

After making quick work of Nicholls St. on Tuesday and then Lafayette Friday evening in Allentown, the 'Cats are the No. 5 team in the land for the second straight week. They moved up from No. 6 last week after leapfrogging now-No.8 Kentucky.

There's an excellent chance things are going to get much trickier for the Wildcats this week as they head to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which starts Wednesday vs. Western Kentucky. But a potential second-round matchup with No. 18 Purdue looms Thursday, as does a potential championship showdown of titanic proportions with No. 2 Arizona on Friday.

But the 'Cats aren't the only team with some AP poll notoriety this week.

Fran Dunphy's 3-0 Temple team received four votes this week after capturing the Charleston Classic crown. The Owls earned the honors with victories over Old Dominion, Auburn and Clemson.

The Owls next game is their first of the season at the Liacouras Center — a Big 5 matchup Sunday with La Salle. The Owls and Wildcats will meet in North Philly on Dec. 13.

Duke was again No. 1 in this week's poll. Arizona leaped to No. 2, Kansas held its ground at No. 3 and Michigan State slipped to No. 4 before Villanova rounded out the top 5. 

Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

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Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

Temple (5-5, 3-3 AAC) vs. No. 15 UCF (9-0, 6-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, noon, ESPNU

Last time out
Temple beat Cincinnati, 35-24, last Friday.

UCF beat UConn, 49-24, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Both teams have a lot at stake in Saturday’s game. An Owls win would make them bowl eligible and give them a victory against a high-ranked opponent, which would certainly help when it comes time for bowl selection. On the other hand, UCF will look to preserve its perfect season and stay atop the AAC's East Division with a crucial matchup against 8-1 South Florida looming.

Frank Nutile, who will make his fourth consecutive start at quarterback, has sparked Temple’s offense. Since he stepped in, he has completed 61 of 89 passes for 803 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions, and led the Owls to two wins. He will need to continue his stellar play for Temple to beat UCF, which boasts the second-best total and scoring defense in the AAC, allowing 371 yards per game and 20.7 points per game.

The Knights also have the best total offense in the conference, putting up 538 yards per game and 48.6 points per game, which is more than six points better than the second-best team. The Owls must keep UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (2,720 yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions) and the Knights' rushing attack, which averages 210.2 yards per game, in check if they want a chance at the upset.

Series history
The series is tied at 2-2 and Temple has won the past two matchups, including a 26-25 come-from-behind win last year.

What's next?
Temple travels to play Tulsa next Saturday.

UCF hosts No. 23 South Florida on Friday night.

Penn (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) vs. Cornell (3-6, 3-3 Ivy)
Franklin Field
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.


Last time out
Penn defeated Harvard, 23-6, last Saturday.

Cornell lost to Columbia, 18-8, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn has won its last three Ivy League contests and has gained a lot of momentum after losing its first three Ivy League games this season. Cornell shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to the Quakers since the Big Red are second worst in the conference in scoring offense, total offense and pass efficiency. The Quakers’ strength is their rushing attack, as they average 192 yards per game on the ground. Cornell’s rush defense is sixth in the conference, so look for the Quakers to take advantage of this matchup.

Series history
This is the 124th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 72-46-5 advantage and won, 42-20, last season. 

What's next?
This is the final game of the season for both teams.

Villanova (4-6, 2-5 CAA) vs. Delaware (7-3, 5-2 CAA)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pennsylvania 
Saturday, 1 p.m.


Last time out
Villanova lost to Rhode Island, 20-6, last Saturday.

Delaware beat Albany, 22-3, last Saturday.

Scouting report
What stands out about this regular-season finale are the defenses for Delaware and Villanova. Delaware’s scoring defense is second to James Madison as the Blue Hens allow just 15.7 points per game. The Wildcats’ specialty on the defensive side of the football is their run defense. Villanova allows only 72 yards per game on the ground and will look to slow down a Delaware rushing attack that averages 200 yards per game. Also to note, the Blue Hens come in fighting for a berth in the FCS playoffs.

Series history
Villanova leads the series 28-21-1. The Wildcats won, 41-10, last season.

What's next?
This is the regular-season finale for both Villanova and Delaware. For the second time in the last three seasons, the Wildcats won't make the FCS playoffs.