NEW YORK - Corey Stokes could have allowed his role in the controversial final call of Villanova's loss to Georgetown to linger and affect him last night, but he didn't.
Instead, the 6-foot-5 freshman came out ready to contribute against St. John's, and he did. Coming off the bench for 13 points, Stokes helped carry the Wildcats to a 60-42 Big East Conference win over the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden.
The Wildcats (15-9, 5-7 Big East) played their third consecutive game of strong defense, limiting St. John's (10-14, 4-9) to 25.5 percent shooting and establishing a season low for points allowed to an opponent.
But the key to the win was their ability to forget the bitter 55-53 defeat of Monday, when Stokes was whistled for a disputed foul with 0.1 seconds to play, leading to the Hoyas' two winning free throws.
Stokes said a support system that included teammates, coaches, family, friends and even students helped get him through.
"They just told me to keep a positive attitude, and that's what I did," Stokes said. "We just worked hard and I forgot about the whole thing."
Well, not quickly.
"I had to sleep on it first," he said. "The next day, I got up for class and just focused on my classes, then got focused for practice, and just forgot about it."
With the victory, Villanova moved into a three-way tie for 10th place in the conference with DePaul and Seton Hall. The top 12 teams go to the Big East tournament here next month.
The Wildcats made this one as much a no-doubter as there is in the Big East. They went on separate runs of 16-0 and 13-0 in the first half to take a 29-8 lead with 5 minutes, 11 seconds to play, delighting their sizable contingent of fans in the crowd of 10,823.
Stokes ended the first spurt with a three-pointer and helped spark the second one with another trey. He finished 3 for 5 from beyond the arc.
Defensively, the Wildcats locked down the Red Storm, who took some bad shots and had some bad luck on others. St. John's opened the game making just one of its first 10 shots and was shooting 20.8 percent (5 for 24) at the half while trailing, 31-13.
The Wildcats entered the game ranked 14th in the Big East in points allowed (73.4) and 14th in field-goal percentage defense (46.3 percent). Those figures in the last three games are 55.8 points and 34.8 percent.
"I just think it's time," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It's just learning and learning, and it's just starting to click a little bit. We've played much smarter defense the last couple of games. We've always played hard, but it was inexperienced or unintelligent. It's coming of age."
The Wildcats did not allow the Red Storm to get closer than 13 in the second half. That was a relief to Wright, who said he had no idea going into the game whether his players had put Georgetown behind them.
"This is a young group, and it's tough to read them," he said. "They were very quiet in the locker room before the game. I was concerned, but they came ready to play."
Dante Cunningham added 12 points for the Wildcats and Dwayne Anderson had 11, plus 10 rebounds.
Scottie Reynolds, the Wildcats' leading scorer, left the game with 13:57 remaining with a right ankle injury and never returned. Reynolds apparently turned the ankle after contact with St. John's Malik Boothe while taking the ball upcourt.
"He said he could go back in," Wright said. "I just tried to look at the lead. If it had got to single digits, we would have put him back in."