Erik Reynolds II scored 24 points, Xzayvier Brown added 16 and Saint Joseph’s beat No. 18 Villanova 78-65 on Wednesday night.
Rasheer Fleming had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Lynn Greer III scored 15 for St. Joe’s (5-2), which advanced to the first-ever Big 5 Classic championship game on Saturday night. The Hawks will play the winner of Wednesday’s contest between La Salle and Temple.
Justin Moore scored 17 and Eric Dixon had 14 for the Wildcats (6-2), who struggled on offense all night. Villanova shot 22 of 56 and committed 17 turnovers.
Villanova’s Eric Dixon muscles his way inside for the tough bucket plus the foul vs. Saint Joseph’s
Villanova was playing for the first time since reentering the Top 25 following its title in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, with wins over Texas Tech, North Carolina and Memphis in the championship game on Friday.
Villanova dropped both of its games in the Big 5, losing 69-61 at Penn on Nov. 10 in another upset. This season, the Big 5 abandoned the traditional round-robin format that yearly saw La Salle, Penn, St. Joe’s, Temple and Villanova play each other, with the team with the best record being crowned the Big 5 champ. Instead, Drexel was added as a sixth Big 5 school and two three-team pods were set up, with the top seed in each pod meeting in the title game.
A Wildcats victory would’ve put them in the title game, but the Hawks were the better team from the opening tip.
Villanova’s Eric Dixon lays it in to beat the buzzer, trimming Saint Joseph’s lead
After a strong first half in which they took an eight-point lead at the break, the Hawks opened with six straight points to start the second half. They were ahead 49-35 when Kacper Klaczek drained a 3-pointer 2:26 after the intermission. The Wildcats got as close as 56-49 on Tyler Burton’s follow with 8:27 to play but never closer.
Lynn Greer III gets the steal and lays it up in transition to extend Saint Joseph’s lead over Villanova
St. Joe’s responded, as Reynolds hit a 3, Greer scored a layup and then Reynolds converted his own basket from close range to give the Hawks their biggest advantage, 66-51, with 5:46 remaining.
Erik Reynolds II buries the stepback 3-pointer to extend Saint Joseph’s lead over Villanova
The victory snapped St. Joe’s 11-game losing streak to Villanova and was the Hawks’ first over the Wildcats since 2011. It also was St. Joe’s first victory versus a ranked opponent in its last 12 tries, with a 78-48 triumph over No. 17 Rhode Island on Feb. 27, 2018 the last occurrence. The Hawks pulled within 55-26 in their rivalry with Villanova that dates to the 1920-21 season.
Saint Joseph’s Xzayvier Brown drains a 3-pointer to cement a 78-65 upset over Villanova
St. Joe’s had high hopes entering the season but suffered a shocking home loss to Texas A&M-Commerce on Nov. 17. The Hawks responded with a strong performance at No. 16 Kentucky on Nov. 20, holding a lead late in regulation before falling 96-88 in overtime.
In the first half against Villanova, St. Joe’s looked every bit like the team that played so well at Kentucky while taking a 43-35 lead. Reynolds got whatever shot he wanted, scoring 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting and Brown chipped in 10. The Hawks made 17 of 28 field goals and 7 of 16 from long range.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, committed 11 turnovers. Dixon’s 12 points kept Villanova in it.
Villanova honored former coach Jay Wright by naming the thoroughfare in front of Finneran Pavilion, the Wildcats’ on-campus arena, Wright Way.
Wright won 520 games over 21 seasons that included two national titles and four Final Four appearances.
“I hope it reminds them you have a short period of time to be a coach or player,” Wright said. “Make sure you put everything into it and know it’s not about you.”
Saint Joseph’s: Plays La Salle or Temple in the Big 5 Classic title game at 7:30 on Saturday night.
Villanova: Will play Drexel in the Big 5 Classic fifth-place game at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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