PHILADELPHIA (AP) 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 on Saturday 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, 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 Wells Fargo Center, home of the 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.
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 hit a buzzer-beater in Villanova’s last game at the Wells Fargo Center just six days ago – a 61-59 win over Virginia.
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 3-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.
St. John’s: After going 1-17 in the Big East last season, the Red Storm continued to show improvement under second-year coach Chris Mullin. They have alternated wins and losses in their last six games, with two of the three losses 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.
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.