By Harry Allison
Villanova got its nationally ranked act together in the second half against St. John’s today:
Josh Hart had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Kris Jenkins added 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 6 Villanova to a 68-53 victory.
The Wildcats (18-3, 8-1) held onto first place in the Big East by bouncing back from a horrible first half to pull away in the final minutes. The Wildcats shot 50 percent (14 of 28) from the field in the second half and held at least a 10-point lead over the final 13 minutes. The biggest lead was 20 points.
Mikal Bridges added 13 points for Villanova, which finished with a slight rebound advantage. The Wildcats had a nine-game winning streak snapped by No. 10 Providence in their last game.
Durand Johnson had 13 points to lead St. John’s (7-15, 0-9), which struggled with turnovers throughout the game at Madison Square Garden, committing 21, well above its season average of 14.6. Villanova had 20 turnovers.
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. 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.
St. John’s shot 32.3 percent (10 for 31), 5 for 11 on 3-point attempts, and the Red Storm had 10 turnovers, one less than Villanova, which came into the game averaging 10.9 for 40 minutes.
Villanova center Daniel Ochefu didn’t play. The 6-foot-11 senior suffered a concussion during practice on Friday. Ochefu is averaging 9.7 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds. He is shooting 59.6 percent from the field, fifth in the Big East.
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.