With the extra emotion and adrenaline of playing your most hated competitor, being the favored team often means little, especially on the road.
On Tuesday night, Villanova visited Hagan Arena to take part in the Holy War against Saint Joseph’s with the hopes of leaving at the end of the night with a 7-0 record. The Wildcats would do just that – taking the game 86-72 – but not without a few tense moments that saw the Hawks pull within five and the crowd get raucous.
Moments like those are when Villanova’s veteran leadership and poise tend to be on full display.
“They’re good on offense. They’re great on defense. But their intangibles are so far off the chart,” Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli said of Villanova. “That team, there is no mistaking it, they play fierce. And that’s what they did.”
Early in the second half, the Hawks would rattle off a 12-2 run to pull within 54-49, as the arena grew louder and louder and each play began to mean that much more.
It was then that Villanova displayed what makes them the eighth-ranked team in the nation. With 13:44 remaining in the game, senior Ryan Arcidiacono would knock down a three to put Villanova up eight and halt much of the momentum that Saint Joseph’s had built.
“They went on a little run and the place was going crazy, so I know that during that time we just tried to settle down and get back to trying to drive and space,” Arcidiacono said.
The Wildcats would do just that, regaining command and stretching their lead to as much as 18 on their way to an 86-72 win over the Hawks.
While there are many meaningful plays in any given game, this game seemed to have come down to one big shot, that three by Arcidiacono to stop the bleeding and shift the momentum back in Villanova’s favor.
“I was on the bench when they cut it to five,” said Josh Hart. “When that happened, I looked at our leader and that’s Ryan (Arcidiacono) and he made the play. When teams are going on those runs, when we are fighting some adversity, he’s our leader. No matter what, he always has that ready to go attitude. He was the one that made that play, made that shot and jumpstarted us in that situation.”
Under Arcidiacono’s leadership, the Wildcats were able to improve to 7-0 on the season, as the guard tallied 17 points, three rebounds and three assists. Villanova would receive equally big performances from juniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, who scored 18 points apiece and combined to pull in 15 rebounds.
The Hawks would be led in the loss by DeAndre’ Bembry, who amassed 17 points and six rebounds to lead five Saint Joseph’s players in double-digit scoring. Those efforts would not be enough for Saint Joseph’s, however, as Villanova displayed a veteran poise in weathering the storm in order to get the win.
By: Kyle Babcock
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