SJU dominates Villanova in 77-55 win

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Rob Ferguson and Pat Calathes each scored 20 points to lead Saint Joseph’s to a 77-55 win over Villanova on Monday night, the slumping Wildcats’ fifth straight loss.

The streaking Hawks (15-5) won their sixth straight game and handed Villanova its first Big 5 loss since December 2004. The Wildcats (13-8) had won their last 14 city series games.

The Wildcats can no longer claim to be the best team in the city. Their three-year run of NCAA tournament berths appears to be in jeopardy as well, unless they can rediscover a shooting touch and a defensive determination that have been missing since December.

The Wildcats have their first five-game losing streak since the end of the 2003-04 season, which was also their last trip to the NIT. They might not even qualify for the Big East tournament. The bottom four teams don’t make it and only three other teams have a worse record.

Scottie Reynolds led Villanova with 12 points.

Phil Martelli’s Hawks might not be thinking about their first trip to the tourney in four years quite yet, but Saint Joseph’s has at least put itself in consideration for an at-large bid. Up next for the Hawks are two road games, including Sunday at No. 13 Xavier, where a win would strengthen their quest to become the team to beat in the Atlantic 10.

Darrin Govens hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points for the Hawks.

The city series rivalry at the famed Palestra counted as a home game for the Hawks, and students were lined up outside the famed basketball arena more than four hours before tip. Fans stuffed the aisles and Villanova opened the game shooting into a crimson backdrop of SJU student supporters.

Once the Hawks got rolling, the pro-SJU crowd was rocking.

The Hawks went on a 23-4 run late in the first half that got the blowout started. Govens jump-started the run with a 3-pointer and the Hawks added to the lead with a string of free throws. Ferguson sank a 3 that made it 35-20 heading into a Villanova timeout. The raucous chant of “Let’s Go Saint Joe’s!” was the only sound heard inside the arena. When the Hawks came out of the break, Calathes hit a 3 that seemingly ended the game.

This rivalry was a regular on national television until this season, partly because the games stopped being competitive. Only one of the last 11 games had been decided by fewer than five points, and that was back in 2000.

The Wildcats looked hopeless at times against the veteran Hawks. While the Wildcats don’t have a senior on their roster, the Hawks have two 1,000-point scorers in Calathes and Ferguson.

The 3-point shooting that coach Jay Wright relied on to mold the Wildcats into Big East contenders has vanished (24 percent vs. SJU). They’ve been uncharacteristically sloppy (17 turnovers) and Wright has complained that if his young team isn’t making shots, they’re not focused on defense.

Few teams could have stopped the Hawks, who received votes in The Associated Press college basketball poll, at the stuffed and steamy Palestra. Ferguson hit consecutive 3s early in the second for a 56-29 lead. Calathes scored on a driving layup late in the half for a 75-44 lead, Saint Joe’s largest of the game.

Former 76ers president Pat Croce was among the fans who chuckled at some of the witty SJU student rollouts. One banner joked the Wildcats needed Ticketmaster to watch the NCAA tourney. Another poked fun at Nova graduate and disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy: “Even Tim Donaghy bet on SJU.”

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
Dante Cunningham Dante Cunningham
6-8,  12 Pts
6 Rebs, 0 Assists
 St. Joseph's
Pat Calathes Pat Calathes
7-13,  20 Pts
9 Rebs, 0 Assists

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Monday, Feb 4