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Big Five games help Villanova make progress

Villanova finished its Big Five season in a hurry but used the games to make some progress as the start of the Big East season gets closer.

While it's hard to believe that Villanova is through with its City Series schedule already, the Wildcats have used their matchups against Big Five opponents to make some progress.

One of those positive signs took place Tuesday night when the Cats scored the game's final nine points to defeat St. Joseph's, 65-61, at the Pavilion, and finish City play with a 2-2 record.

Sixteen days earlier, in its Big Five opener at La Salle, Villanova held a four-point lead with 36 seconds to play in regulation and again with 2 minutes remaining in overtime but was not crisp in its execution down the stretch, and suffered a 77-74 defeat.

The execution was better Tuesday night after the Hawks had taken a 61-56 lead with 2:12 to play on Langston Galloway's sixth three-pointer of the game. James Bell sank the go-ahead three-point basket and four free throws from there, and freshman Daniel Ochefu was in the right place for a putback basket.

Villanova coach Jay Wright liked his team's play at both ends in that final two-minute stretch, particularly on St. Joe's final possession.

"It was the same situation at the end of the La Salle game," he said. "We didn't execute defensively. We made a mistake and they made a great play. So we talked about that but you've got to go do it in a game. So for us, that's big.

"That's part of our building process. You've got to do it. You've got to get it done in that situation. There were a lot of little things the guys did, communicating on screens, that was really important. It was good execution on their part."

Another area of improvement for the Wildcats, especially on this night, was in the turnover department. Averaging 16.4 turnovers coming in, 'Nova coughed it up just 13 times Tuesday night, matching its season low, while forcing 18 by St. Joseph's.

"I do think we got a lot better," Wright said. "Thirteen turnovers for us … that's big for us. (Former Temple coach) John Chaney would be going crazy right now. Us, 13 turnovers, we're really happy."

Another good sign: freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacano did not turn the ball over in 32 minutes of play.

The Wildcats (6-4) have three games remaining before the start of their Big East schedule on Jan. 2 when they host St. John's. Their next game is Sunday afternoon at the Pavilion against Delaware.

--Joe Juliano