SAINT JOSEPH'S moved its home game with Villanova from the Palestra to Hagan Arena 2 years ago to level the playing field. It worked quite well when the Hawks easily handled Jay Wright's only bad team in a decade in 2011. Did not work at all Saturday night.
Villanova played beautiful basketball, committing just five turnovers in 40 minutes. When one team makes nine threes in a second half and the other makes zero, there is every chance for a historic blowout. And that is exactly what went down as the Wildcats, who should make a strong run at the Top 10 this week, crushed the Hawks, 98-68.
SJU (4-4, 0-2 Big 5) actually led 30-23 with 5 minutes left in the first half. Eleven minutes of playing time later, 'Nova (9-0, 2-0) led 59-40. That would be a 36-10 run in barely a half of a half.
Villanova has played really well all season, especially on defense. The 'Cats are holding teams to .906 points per possession. Only Ohio State and Louisville are harder to score against. And they matched up quite well with these Hawks who do not have an athletic guard line that can beat opponents off the bounce or get out to cover shooters.
Still, nobody saw this coming. It was a hot team playing great that made shots they had not been making against a team with flaws that really got exposed.
JayVaughn Pinkston had 27 for the Wildcats. James Bell had career highs of 25 points and 14 rebounds, including 23 and 10 in that final 20 minute blitz.
SJU got 18 from Langston Galloway and 17 from DeAndre Bembry.
If Villanova shoots like that, it is going to beat anybody on its schedule. Seriously, 27-0 from the three-point line in 20 minutes is not an everyday occurrence. But it was exactly that in Villanova's second-ever visit to St. Joe's campus, a game that will be long remembered on the Main Line and hard to forget on Hawk Hill.
Temple was really bad for most of the first half against Texas at the Wells Fargo Center and sensational for most of the final 10 minutes of the second half. The Owls really played well enough to get what would have been a terrific win, but they somehow lost, 81-80, in overtime on a late three by a player who had taken 10 shots and missed all but one.
That would be bad enough, but it was all the plays that led up to the winning shot that made it hurt even more. The Owls (4-4) trailed 45-30 with 3 minutes left in the first half and still trailed 66-56 with 9 minutes left.
A zone defense that would have made John Chaney proud then completely confused Texas (8-1) for the rest of the game. The Longhorns made just one shot and committed eight turnovers in those final 9 minutes of regulation.
Temple was rolling and had a 73-70 lead with the ball twice as the clock hit 2 minutes. Anthony Lee (23 points, 14 rebounds) was dominating at the rim.
But the Owls managed to miss five consecutive free throws in the final 2 minutes of regulation and shot 15-for-31 overall. Still, they seemed to have the game when Dalton Pepper (20 points) was shooting his second free throw late in OT, with his team leading 80-78. Pepper's shot was short. He knew it so he chased it. Turned out it hit the front rim and rolled in, but Pepper was in the lane before the ball hit the rim. Every other player but the shooter can go in when the ball is released. A violation was called.
Temple seemed so stunned it played no defense as Texas rushed the ball down. Javan Felix made the winning three. To make it even worse, Pepper's three at the buzzer was just short and did not roll in.
La Salle did shoot well again at Madison Square Garden and had to play from behind against Stony Brook, but the Explorers did have Jerrell Wright with them at the Holiday Festival.
Wright tied his career high with 21 points and La Salle (5-4) won 65-57. The Explorers shot just 35.3 percent. This team has too many good shooters to be making just 29.5 percent of its threes. When that turns, this team will start winning regularly.
Drexel (6-2) was supposed to beat winless Tennessee State (0-10) at the DAC and did, 75-61. Frantz Massenat (21 points) and Chris Fouch (20 points) were the offense, but the Dragons have been winning with their staple, a strong defense that abandoned them last season.
Drexel's nonconference résumé is sensational, with some good wins and some really good close losses at UCLA and to Arizona (going to be No. 1 in the polls). Those teams are a combined 17-1.
Penn lost another winnable game at the Palestra for mainly the same reason it lost so much last season and has been losing early this season - turnovers, 23 in this game, a 75-69 OT loss to Wagner.
Wagner (5-5) has excellent senior guards Kenneth Ortiz and Latif Rivers (18 points each), but . . .