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No. 18 Villanova Upset by St. Joe’s, 78-65

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Brian Luppy/Villanovan Photography
Villanova registered 17 turnovers in its loss to Saint Joseph’s.

On the night No. 18 Villanova dedicated the street that runs in front of the Finneran Pavilion as “Wright Way,” a Jay Wright protegé and former Villanova assistant got a win with a team that played hard, smart and together. 

That coach was not Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune. 

Saint Joseph’s head coach Billy Lange, who spent five years over two stints on the Main Line, pulled out the Hawks’ first win in the “Holy War” since 2011, beating Villanova, 78-65. It’s the Hawks’ first win in the Finneran Pavilion since 2004. 

“I recognize and I acknowledge that this game, and now that win, means a lot to Hawk Hill, Philadelphia,” Lange said. “That matters more to me than what it means to me or the streak or anything.”

The loss drops the ‘Cats to 6-2 overall and 0-2 in Big 5 play. ​​It’s the first time the ‘Cats have dropped two Big 5 games since the 2012-13 season. They will play in the fifth-place game against Drexel on Saturday at the Big 5 Classic at the Wells Fargo Center.

Hawks junior guard Erik Reynolds II scored a game-high 24 on 5-8 shooting from deep. The Hawks had four players in double figures including Reynolds. Sophomore forward Rasheer Fleming had a 12-point 11-rebound double-double performance, while freshman guard Xzayvier Brown finished with 16 on 6-9 shooting from the field. 

Graduate guard Justin Moore led the ‘Cats with 17, while redshirt senior forward Eric Dixon scored 14.

The game was decided from beyond the arc, as the Hawks shot 14-27 for the game from three, while the ‘Cats shot 10-37. The ‘Cats struggled to get productive shots against the Hawks’ 3-2 zone defense, which they ran for a majority of the game. Lange said postgame that the decision to go to a zone came from the absence of sophomore center Christ Essandoko, who has started in four games this season.

“We were desperate,” Lange said. “We were down our five-man. And so you do it, and if it works you stay in it.”

The zone also forced some mistakes from the ‘Cats, as they turned the ball over 17 times in the game. 11 of those turnovers came in the first half. The Hawks scored 28, 36% of their total points, off of Villanova turnovers.

The ‘Cats shot well in the first half but abysmally in the second, going 11-35 from the floor and 4-22 from three. The Hawks shot 12-23 and 7-11 in the final period.

“St. Joe’s, they shot 64% from three in the second half, 44% in the first half, 57% from the field for the game,” Neptune said. “I think that was where they got us.”

For the Hawks, the win sends them to the Big 5 Classic title game. It will be the first time there is an outright winner of the Big 5 that is not Villanova since Penn won the title in 2018-19.

The ‘Cats will face Drexel on Saturday. The Dragons are also winless in the Big 5, with losses to Temple and La Salle. After Drexel, the ‘Cats will embark on a difficult three-game stretch. They’ll see Kansas State in Kansas, UCLA at the Wells Fargo Center and then travel to Omaha to open conference play against Creighton.

Tip-off against Drexel in the fifth place game of the Big 5 Classic is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2.

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Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor
Owen Hewitt is one of two Co-Sports Editors in 2024. Entering his second year in this position, he is a Communications major specializing in journalism. Owen is a Memphis native and a die-hard Grizzlies fan, although his main loyalty lies with Memphis 901 FC. When not writing about basketball or soccer, Owen can often be found on stage, performing as part of Villanova's improv team Ridiculum. Owen has many goals in life, including going into sports journalism as a profession, but his main goal — always — is to stay jitty with it.
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