St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli knows a good team when he sees one, and the Villanova team he saw Tuesday night at Hagan Arena had much more than what he called "a good offense and a great defense."
The eighth-ranked Wildcats pretty much had control of the Big Five opener for both teams for much of the game. And when they didn't, senior cocaptain Ryan Arcidiacono pulled them up and got them back on track, helping lift 'Nova to an 86-72 victory over the Hawks before a sellout crowd of 4,200.
Martelli called Villanova's intangibles "so far off the chart."
"Players play hard, they get a scholarship, they're supposed to play hard," he said. "But that team, there's no mistaking it. They play fierce and that's what they did . . . tracking the loose balls, second-chance points. So I think their intangibles, it starts with Arch and [Daniel] Ochefu and it permeates all of them."
It was Arcidiacono who set the tone after the Wildcats (7-0) saw a 15-point advantage early in the second half trimmed to five, 54-49, on a three-point basket by Isaiah Miles with just over 14 minutes to play. With the crowd into it, freshman Jalen Brunson dribbled to the baseline and whipped a pass out to Arcidiacono, whose three-pointer turned the volume down.
"I actually did the wrong thing," said Arcidiacono, who finished with three threes and 17 points. "I should have been in the corner for him and he just made an amazing pass. I think that was a big play. But we just had to get back to defensively getting stops."
St. Joseph's hung around for the next four minutes before an 11-4 run, during which five different players scored, put the Wildcats up 72-59 with 7:32 remaining and the Hawks never got closer than 11.
The statistics did not indicate a 14-point Villanova victory. The Hawks (4-2) shot 45.3 percent, turned the ball over just seven times, were outrebounded by just three and had five players in double figures. Point guard Shavar Newkirk had nine assists and zero turnovers.
But the Wildcats connected on 11 three-pointers - five more than St. Joe's - and shot 52 percent in the second half. They weathered foul trouble from 6-foot-11 center Daniel Ochefu keyed by Josh Hart, who went for nine boards to go with 18 points.
"It's a really good St. Joe team," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They were very well-prepared, it's not a surprise. It was a tough environment and a good team. So you come out of that with a win and you feel good about your team and we can definitely build on this. This is a good win."
Kris Jenkins also had 18 points for Villanova. DeAndre' Bembry led the Hawks with 17 but shot just two of nine in the second half.
For Arcidiacono, he hasn't heard many cheers in his two career games on Hawk Hill but he'll remember the last one.
"It's always crazy," he said. "It's a great environment. They're a really good team. I think the coaching staff had us well-prepared for what they were doing. I'm definitely going to miss it."