Friday, August 1, 2014
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Game 14: Villanova 97, St. Joseph's 89

To be totally honest, it wasn't a great game. We won't remember this down the years for any big shot or big performance. But it was close, and it was compelling for almost all of the 40 minutes. That's worth something, especially how lopsided Holy War games have been in recent years.

Game 14: Villanova 97, St. Joseph's 89

Box score
Enhanced box score
Dick Jerardi
Mike Kern
Joe Juliano

To be totally honest, it wasn't a great game. We won't remember this down the years for any big shot or big performance.

But it was close, and it was compelling for almost all of the 40 minutes. That's worth something, especially how lopsided Holy War games have been in recent years.

What impressed me most was how St. Joe's just kept coming. Even though the Wildcats led for the entire second half, they never went on a big run to put the Hawks away. 'Nova led by 10 points with 13:50 left, but St. Joe's got it down to six. It was up to 12 with 7:44 remaining, but the score was 84-80 after Carl Jones hit three free throws with 2:00 on the clock.

Phil Martelli said he thought the margin was never small enough for Jay Wright to be nervous. But the Palestra was as raucous as you'll ever hear it at that point, and the air was as hot as you'll ever feel it.

(Allow me an aside for a moment. If any Penn fans watched this game, especially among the current student body, that's what your life used to be like. Just saying.)

The circumstances asked a question of Villanova, and the Wildcats delivered an answer. Scottie Reynolds, playing in his last game at the Palestra, dribbled towards the top of the lane. He passed the ball out to Taylor King, playing in his first game at the Palestra, who was standing open at the top left side of the arc.

A few minutes earlier, King had stunned the crowd by missing a fastbreak dunk. Now he stunned the crowd for a different reason, sinking a wide-open three that turned the game towards Villanova for good.

Whether you love the Wildcats or hate them, you know that moments like that are decided by more than just talent and conference affiliation. So is the ability to make 30 of 31 free throws in the second half of a Big 5 game, including 29 straight at one point.

There are many people who make careers of trying to destroy the notion of "clutch" in sports. But for as much as we use and interpret statistics here on this blog, the Palestra is not always a place for sabremetricians.

It is a place for hard work, desire and occasional streaks of artistry. We were served our fill last night, in a game much better described by words than by numbers.

After the live blog transcript, you'll find video highlights and full audio of the postgame press conferences. Both sides had plenty to say when the night was over.


Preamble

It is well known to all of us that the Palestra has been neither a happy nor a particularly full house of hoops so far this season.

But that will finally change tonight.

As John McAdams used to so famously tell us: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the University of Pennsylvania Palestra, college basketball's most historic gym.

Tonight, St. Joseph's University athletic director Don DiJulia and his staff are proud to present a Philadelphia Big 5 City Series game: the 67th all-time meeting between the Villanova University Wildcats and the St. Joseph's University Hawks.

The big crowd is gathering, and just a few feet to my right on press row Dave Pasch and Bill Raftery are getting ready to call the game on ESPN2.

It's a night for short sleves and long possessions, traffic on 33rd Street and traffic in the lane.

And while the Wildcats are clearly the better team, it's still the Holy War.

Off we go.



Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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