For the second straight game, Villanova’s bench came alive while helping provide yet another Big 5 basketball win.
With a 31-10 advantage in bench scoring, No. 21 Villanova defeated St. Joseph’s, 70-58, in Saturday afternoon’s Big 5 game at Finneran Pavilion.
It was the 25th consecutive Big 5 win for Villanova (8-2, 3-0 Big 5). The Wildcats complete their Big 5 schedule with Tuesday’s game against Penn at the Palestra.
During Wednesday’s 69-59 Big 5 win over Temple, Villanova’s bench outscored the Owls' subs, 29-7.
Despite missing two key performers due to injury, St. Joseph’s would eventually make an impressive comeback.
The Hawks (5-5, 0-2) played without leading scorer Charlie Brown Jr. (22.0 ppg), out with a sprained right ankle suffered during Wednesday’s 92-82 win at Princeton and top rebounder Pierfrancesco Oliva missed his second straight game after suffering a concussion in a 77-70 loss to Temple last Saturday.
For the second game in a row, Jermaine Samuels, Villanova’s 6-foot-7 sophomore, and 6-4 guard Joe Cremo opened things up with some instant offense.
After scoring a career-high 15 points against Temple, Samuels, finished with 11 points. Cremo, a graduate transfer from Albany, scored 12 points, all in the first half.
While we’re at it, 6-9 freshman Cole Swider was also a productive reserve. Swider scored eight points, all in the second half.
“That is the story of our season, how we can develop our young guys and count Joe Cremo because he is a new guy,” VIllanova coach Jay Wright said.
Eric Paschall led Villanova with 14 points while Phil Booth scored 12.
Guard Fresh Kimble led St. Joseph’s with 22 points.
To its credit, St. Joseph’s fought back. Going on a 16-0 run, the Hawks cut the lead to 62-56 when Kimble made one of two free throws with 2 minutes, 39 seconds left.
“I thought our defensive commitment in that late run was real,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.
Booth stopped the run with a three-pointer but St. Joe’s made it 65-58 on Markell Lodge’s put-back with 2:12 left.
Finally, Villanova got some breathing room when sophomore Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree gave the Wildcats a 68-58 lead with 1:07 left on a conventional three-point play.
For the second game in a row, Samuels had a career high in rebounds, with eight. Wright said a key to Samuels' recent improvement is that he is now playing mainly power forward and center after previously playing every position but point guard.
“I think that has helped him because he can play, we know he can play and I think he looks a lot more confident and comfortable out there," Wright said about limiting Samuels' positions.
“I do whatever the coaches want as long as it benefits the team,” Samuels said. “If he has me at 4-5-3 (power forward, center, small forward) it doesn’t matter as long as I am out there and helping my teammates.”