Villanova soared to the top of the college basketball world by capturing national championships in two of the last three seasons.
The Wildcats have been kings of their own city for much longer.
Eric Paschall had 14 points and nine rebounds, and No. 21 Villanova beat Saint Joseph’s 70-58 on Saturday for its 25th straight Big 5 victory.
Joe Cremo and Phil Booth scored 12 points apiece as the Wildcats (8-2) continued their dominance of the long-standing city series with Philadelphia rivals Saint Joseph’s, Penn, La Salle and Temple. Jermaine Samuels added 11 points.
“It’s just the intensity of it,” Samuels said. “We’re getting every team’s best shot. They’re not giving up. That’s the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from these Big 5 games.”
Lamarr Kimble led Saint Joseph’s (5-5) with 22 points. The Hawks played without Charlie Brown after the top scorer in the Atlantic 10 sprained his ankle in a win at Princeton on Wednesday.
Saint Joseph’s struggled offensively, shooting 34.5 percent (20 for 58) from the field. The Hawks went 6 for 27 from 3-point range and 12 for 18 from the foul line.
“We’ve been getting kicked in the (butt) all year with missed layups,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “I think the same thing happened today.”
Trailing 62-40 midway through the second half, the Hawks went on a 16-0 run to make things interesting. But a Booth 3-pointer and a Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree three-point play with 1:05 remaining helped seal Villanova’s sixth straight win.
“We’re starting to get more organized,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I think guys are starting to get more comfortable with each other. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
Fresh off come-from-behind Big 5 victories over La Salle and Temple, Villanova began to pull away from Saint Joseph’s late in the first half, taking a 38-28 lead into halftime on the strength of four 3-pointers from Cremo and two from Paschall, including one in the final minute.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 48-31 three minutes into the second half after back-to-back buckets from freshman Cole Swider capped a 10-0 run. Swider scored all eight of his points in the second half.
“It’s hard as a freshman to come into these games,” Wright said. “That’s going to be the story of the season — how we can develop our young guys and our new guys.”
Saint Joseph’s: Since last beating Villanova on Dec. 17, 2011, the Hawks have lost to their nearby rivals by an average of nearly 23 points over their last seven meetings.
Villanova: The Wildcats are establishing more of a home-court advantage, winning two straight at the refurbished Finneran Pavilion after back-to-back losses there to Michigan and Furman last month.
NO ROLLOUTS ALLOWED
The Wildcats, whose last loss in the city series came on Dec. 5, 2012, to Temple, can complete their sixth straight perfect 4-0 Big 5 season vs. Penn on Tuesday at the Palestra — the storied gym that used to host every Big 5 game.
There are noticeable changes now that most Big 5 contests are held in on-campus arenas. On Saturday, a small contingent of about 30 St. Joe’s students unfurled a rollout banner — one of the enduring Big 5 traditions — only to have it confiscated by a Finneran Pavilion security member. The Hawks’ student fan section, 54th Airborne, also tweeted they had a drum taken away.
Villanova students, meanwhile, seemed mostly disinterested in the St. Joe’s fans at the top of the arena, until the final minute when they peppered them with “The Hawk is Dead” and “Safety School” chants.
DIGGING THE NEW DIGS
When asked about Villanova’s stranglehold on the Big 5, Martelli pointed to the Wildcats being an elite program that has it all, including a $65 million renovation to the luxurious Finneran Pavilion.
“I had assistant coaches and strength guys and trainers all slobbering over the building,” Martelli said. “I said to them, ‘You know, fellas, we’ve gotta play 5 against 5 here today.'”
After a two-week layoff for finals, St. Joe’s hosts Loyola of Chicago at the Palestra on Dec. 22.
Villanova closes out Big 5 play at Penn on Tuesday before a showdown at Kansas next Saturday.
Source: The Associated Press