No. 6 Villanova has big 2nd half, tops St. John's 68-53
NEW YORK (AP) Villanova didn't look like the No. 6 team in the country in the first half against St. John's on Sunday.
The Wildcats, the first place team in the Big East, had a terrible opening 20 minutes but righted themselves in the second half for a 68-53 victory over the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden.
Josh Hart had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Kris Jenkins added 14 points and 11 rebounds for Villanova (18-3, 8-1) which handed St. John's its 12th straight loss.
Villanova, which came in third in the conference at 46.4 percent from the field, shot 7 for 30 (23.3 percent), including 2 for 10 from 3-point range in the first half. It was the Wildcats' worst first half shooting this season. They shot 26.7 percent (8 of 30) in a 78-55 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma in Hawaii.
Villanova had 11 turnovers, matching its season average of 10.9 for 40 minutes. And yet the Wildcats still managed a 28-27 halftime lead despite not having starting center Daniel Ochefu.
''I was happy the second half we kind of got it going,'' Wildcats coach Jay Wright said of the 50 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes (14 of 28). ''I thought the big key was Kris and Darryl Reynolds on the boards. That was big. Josh did a good job too. Without Daniel that was big for us.''
Ochefu, a 6-foot-11 senior, was accidentally elbowed in the head at practice Friday and is now undergoing concussion protocol. He is averaging 9.7 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds.
''We just took the precaution of leaving him home since what's the sense of traveling knowing he's not playing and the best thing for concussions is just rest,'' Wright said. ''So they'll check him today to see if he is symptom free. If he is symptom free today then that starts the process of concussion recovery.''
Jenkins' rebounds were a career high.
''Going into every game I try to focus on rebounding. It's just today I was able to get to a lot more because Daniel usually grabs most of the rebounds,'' he said laughing.
Mikal Bridges added 13 points for Villanova, which finished with a 48-35 rebound advantage. The Wildcats, who had a nine-game winning streak snapped by No. 10 Providence in their last game, held at least a 10-point lead over the final 13 minutes. The biggest lead was 20 points.
Durand Johnson had 13 points to lead St. John's (7-15, 0-9), which committed 21 turnovers, well above its season average of 14.6. Villanova had 20 turnovers.
''They don't make mistakes, so we had empty possessions for 8 minutes where we were giving balls away,'' St. John's Ron Mvouika. ''Against a team like that, they're going to make us pay. That's what they did, they made us pay.''
Villanova was 19 of25 from the free throw line while the Red Storm were 7 of 12.
''I thought our defensive effort was really, really good, especially in the (first) half. We did a really good job there, made it tough for them. We didn't capitalize,'' St. John's coach Chris Mullin said. ''... Between the rebounds, turnovers and free throws, that's pretty much the game right there.''
FAMOUS FANS: It wasn't as impressive as the celebrities the New York Knicks draw but in attendance Sunday was tennis great John McEnroe, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Hall of Fame St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca.
Villanova: The Wildcats have a six-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden that includes last season's Big East Tournament. ... This was the 112th meeting between the schools with the first game in 1909. St. John's leads the series 60-52. ... Villanova hit its first 3-pointer of the second half exactly 12 minutes earlier (15:45) than the Wildcats did in the first half.
St. John's: Before the current streak, the longest losing streak in school history was seven games. ... This was the sixth game the Red Storm played without freshman center Yankuba Sima, who broke his hand. In the previous five games St. John's did not outrebound an opponent. The last game - a loss to Seton Hall - saw the Red Storm outrebounded 56-40. ... St. John's entered the game first in the Big East and seventh nationally with 6.2 blocks per game. The Red Storm had five blocks Sunday.
Villanova hosts Creighton on Tuesday.
St. John's at No. 7 Xavier on Tuesday.