Villanova Tops Saint Joseph’s, 71-64, Earning Share of Big 5 Title


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Chris Arcidiacono led the Wildcats to a Big 5 win with 14 points. Arcidiacono scored Villanova’s final eight points.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

PHILADELPHIA — For years, Villanova has had success holding leads late by giving the ball to experienced point guards. Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, Collin Gillespie.

On Saturday afternoon, Villanova turned to that formula again to protect a late lead, and who stepped up? The Villanova-est of Villanova guards: Chris Arcidiacono.

Arcidiacono hit the late dagger from three-point range to clinch the game for Villanova, extending a six point lead to nine with two minutes left. As Saint Joseph’s pressed and fouled late, Arcidiacono had the ball in his hands again, making three late free throws to stymie any chance of a Hawk comeback. The senior scored Villanova’s final eight points.

“Some games, the young guys have done it and been out there at the end of the games, and some games, the older guys get it done,” Arcidiacono said. “I’m ready for each scenario, however the game’s going, whatever Coach Kyle (Neptune) wants me to do.”

In the end, Arcidiacono scored 14 points to lead Villanova to a 71-64 win over St. Joe’s (4-6) in the Holy War. The win improves Villanova’s record to 6-5 and clinches a share of the Big 5 title for the eighth time in nine seasons. Villanova has now won 29 titles, while Temple, which also finished with a 3-1 record, has 28.

“Anytime you win a championship at any level, it’s always a special thing,” Neptune said. 

St. Joe’s head coach Billy Lange raved about Arcidiacono’s play postgame.

“This is not (an) accident,” Lange said. “He just has (had) a very, very good career. And part of that is he’s grown up under leadership and guidance from guys like Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels, and it passes on down the line and he comes in and it just does what he does. I think he’s terrific.”

Arcidiacono’s second-half heroics were done in front of a raucous St. Joe’s student section. Students repeatedly chanted, “Ryan’s better,” referencing Chris’s brother, Knicks guard and Villanova alum Ryan Arcidiacono.

“(I’ve) been dealing with that for forever, so it’s not anything new,” Arcidiacono said. “I just tried to stay with my teammates and coaches with that type of stuff, and I think that the team helped me out with that, and I think that I did a good job (dealing with it).”

Arcidiacono wasn’t the only Wildcat in double figures. Graduate forward Brandon Slater led Villanova with 19 points, while redshirt junior Eric Dixon had a double-double, adding 16 points and 12 rebounds.

St. Joe’s sophomore guard Eric Reynolds II led all scorers with 27 points.

The teams went into the game expecting a shootout. Neither disappointed early. The first eight shot attempts of the game were from beyond the arc, and Villanova made its first six attempts from three. 

However, the shots stopped falling. Over a nine minute stretch in the first half, the Hawks and Wildcats combined to score just nine points. Reynolds II nailed a three at the buzzer to send the Hawks to the locker room with a 35-32 lead.

In the second half, the story was Villanova’s defense. St. Joe’s Rasheer Flemming threw down an alley oop with 16:57 to go, giving Hagan Arena belief that the Hawks could pull the upset and extending the SJU lead to six. However, Villanova held the Hawks to just one field goal over the next eight minutes, turning the deficit into a 10-point lead.

“I think our guys just locked in,” Neptune said. “I mean, it’s nothing tricky. … You can’t trick them into missing shots. You got to go out there and defend and be solid and actually go earn that stop. And I think that our guys did that today.”

St Joe’s threatened down the stretch, but several Wildcats, led by Arcidiacono, continually found the answer.

The win, Villanova’s 11th consecutive over the Hawks, wrapped up non-conference play. Villanova opens Big East play on Wednesday at the Finneran Pavilion, where it will play St. John’s (6:30 p.m., FS1).