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Villanova continues to win

VILLANOVA'S second- and third-leading scorers shot a combined 2-for-19 Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats beat St. John's, 74-67.

VILLANOVA'S second- and third-leading scorers shot a combined 2-for-19 Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats beat St. John's, 74-67.

That result does not happen for ordinary or even good teams. It can only happen for exceptional teams that have multiple ways to win games.

Villanova (15-1, 4-0 Big East) won its third conference road game because it stayed in the game with its toughness and won the final 8 minutes by making just enough significant plays to gain late separation.

The 'Cats got 15 points and 10 rebounds from leading scorer JayVaughn Pinkston and 14 from terrific freshman Josh Hart.

On a day when James Bell and Darrun Hilliard missed 17 of their 19 shots, the team shot 35.2 percent overall and 31.3 percent from the arc, Villanova won anyway.

The Wildcats trailed the Red Storm (9-6, 0-3) 56-55 as the clock went under 8 minutes. No matter. They defended, got to the free throw line and made a few baskets at the biggest moments. It is what exceptional teams do. As we pass the midway point of the regular season, Villanova continues to play like one of the 10 best teams in the country.

Great win for Penn

After Penn had lost a heartbreaker at Rider on Dec. 29 and it was suggested by a questioner that the Quakers might end up in the bottom half of the Ivy League, coach Jerome Allen said: "Right now, I see us at the top of the league. Nobody's played a league game. We don't have any losses. We're in first place with everybody else."

Well, they are still in first place (along with Harvard). With everybody finally healthy on what is definitely a talented roster, Penn controlled the Ivy opener against Princeton at the Palestra for much of the game. Penn being Penn with its penchant for turnovers made the game much closer than it really should have been and had to win it several times. But win it they did when senior Miles Jackson-Cartwright dropped in two free throws with 5 seconds left to break a final tie. The Quakers won 77-74.

Penn (3-10, 1-0 Ivy) led, 49-38, with 11 minutes left. Four minutes later, Princeton (11-3, 0-1) was ahead. Four minutes after that, Penn led, 71-63. Then Tony Hicks (18 points on 8-for-13 shooting) fouled out, another flurry of TOs (18 in all) commenced and Penn had to win it a final time.

The Quakers shot 27-for-55 (49.1 percent) and crushed Princeton near the rim with Fran Dougherty (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Darien Nelson-Henry (17 points, eight rebounds in his first game back from a concussion). Penn overwhelmed the Tigers on the glass, 42-25. And the Quakers got a win they really had to have for the standings and their state of mind.

Hawks win

Saint Joseph's has very quietly been playing pretty well for a month. If Ronald Roberts (back) did not get hurt Wednesday at Massachusetts, the Hawks may very well have started Atlantic 10 play a perfect 2-0 on the road. They could not hold a nine-point lead against UMass with 6 minutes left. They played brilliant offense all game at George Mason and won, 84-80

SJU (10-5, 1-1 A-10) got 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting from Halil Kanacevic. Langston Galloway got 20. DeAndre Bembry had 17. Roberts missed the first game of his SJU career, but Papa Ndao got the most extended playing time of his career and did not miss a shot (4-for-4, 3-for-3 from the arc, 2-for-2 from the foul line), scoring a career-best 13 points.

SJU shot 29-for-49 (59.2 percent) and never stopped running good offense. Kanacevic was really effective all over the court, but especially on his moves to the rim. George Mason (7-9, 0-2) eventually figured to wear out the Hawks who were also playing without Isaiah Miles (concussion), but SJU actually looked like the stronger team at the finish.

Owls hit late wall again

Temple radio analyst John Baum summed up the Owls' plight succinctly a few minutes after they lost to Memphis, 79-69, at the Liacouras Center.

"They can't go to the D League to get players," he said.

No, they can't. The Owls (5-9, 0-4 American) will play with what they have. It is a good group. With the injuries, there simply are not enough of them.

It was 48-48 with 14 minutes left. Then, Memphis (12-3, 3-1) got a second wind the Owls do not have. The Tigers crushed the Owls on the glass, 45-28, and got 23 points and 11 rebounds from Shaq Goodwin.

Temple got 24 points and eight rebounds from Dalton Pepper and 18 more points from Quenton DeCosey. It all looked pretty good for 26 minutes.

Dragons love overtime

Maybe, Drexel can just start games at the finish. The Dragons might never lose. After winning consecutive triple-overtime games earlier in the season, winning in double-OT at the DAC against Northeastern must have seemed like a breeze.

Playing without three injured starters, Drexel (9-6, 1-1 CAA) needed career games from Chris Fouch and Frantz Massenat and got them in a 93-88 win.

Fouch was sensational with a career-high 31 points, shooting 10-for-15 overall, 6-for-8 from three and 5-for-6 from the line. Massenat did not shoot particularly well, but he played really well with a career-best 27 points, career-best 12 rebounds and eight assists. He was 13-for-15 from the foul line in another Drexel game where every point counted.

Tavon Allen had 18 points for the Dragons, but sprained an ankle late in regulation and left the court on crutches. Drexel shot 46.9 percent while Northeastern (4-12, 1-1) shot 50.8 percent and still lost to the multi-OT kings.

Drexel hosts preseason CAA favorite Towson tomorrow. Damion Lee (ACL) is not coming back. It seems unlikely Allen, Dartaye Ruffin or Kazembe Abif will play. Can they just start in OT?