NEW YORK, N.Y. – For the fourth time in as many tries in his young career, redshirt sophomore Donte DiVincenzo came up with an explosive scoring performance against the St. John’s Red Storm. The Wilmington, Del., native came off the bench to score 25 critical points to help No. 1 Villanova stave off a late charge from St. John’s on its way to a 78-71 win at Madison Square Garden.
t DiVincenzo matched a career high set here against the Red Storm in a BIG EAST Tournament quarterfinal last March. In four career games against St.. John’s, he has averaged 22.3 ppg.
So what is it about this matchup that brings out the best in DiVincenzo? “I have no idea,” he stated after draining 6-of-9 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
The explosive individual effort allowed Villanova to withstand a 37-point performance by Red Storm guard Shamorie Ponds.
“That was one of those ugly road victories you just have to take, go back and watch the film, and learn from,,” stated VU head coach Jay Wright. “We didn’t look good but I think the credit goes to St. John’s. I thought they were outstanding defensively. They did a really good job against our guards.”
As has been the pattern in games between these two squads in recent years, points were hard to come by in the early going. Villanova went nearly four minutes before Eric Paschall drained a 3-pointer for its first field goal of the night. After 4:56 the score was deadlocked at four and the teams were a combined 3-of-15 from the floor.
St. John’s was able to slow a VU attack that had scored no fewer than 89 points in its first four BIG EAST games. The Red Storm held a 20-17 lead after 12:34 of action. VU was just 5-of-16 (.312) from the field and 2-of-8 from beyond the arc to that point.
Late in the first half, Villanova got its offense moving thanks to DiVincenzo, who scored five consecutive points. The Wildcats closed on a 17-7 burst to take a 34-27 lead at halftime. DiVincenzo’s eight points led VU over the first 20 minutes.
“The last thing I come in to look for is scoring,” stated DiVincenzo. “The shots just went down tonight.”
The Wildcats were able to stretch their advantage to double digits on two occasions in the first eight minutes of the second half thanks to sharp long range shooting, from DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson (12 points, five rebounds, five assists). Yet the Red Storm’s Shamorie Ponds added 10 points in that stretch to keep St. John’s within 52-43 at the 11:37 mark in the second half.
DiVincenzo’s heroics helped to keep the Red Storm at bay until the final minutes. A pair of Ponds free throws shaved the gap to 69-65 with 1:18 to play in the second half. But Mikal Bridges (15 points, 11 rebounds) sank four key free throws while Brunson added a pair to help Villanova grab the 78-71 win.
The win was Villanova’s 13th straight over the Red Storm. The last VU loss to St. John’s came in February 2011 (81-68).
This game kicked off a stretch of three straight on the road for the Wildcats, who travel to Georgetown on Wednesday night for their first look at the Hoyas under new coach Patrick Ewing (6:30 p.m/FS1 and 610 Sports Radio).
The 2017-18 Villanova Basketball season is presented by KeyBank.