'Nova knocks off Hawks

Villanova's Antonio Pena salm dunks against Saint Joseph's during the second half. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

One team, which starts three seniors who have been through some Big East wars, is already playing with an eye toward March.

The other, which starts three freshmen, is simply learning as it grows.

Yet iit’s still Villanova and Saint Joseph’s, which remains the most passionate basketball rivalry in the city, regardless of whatever disparity might exist on paper.

The nationally-ranked Wildcats (6-1) were coming off a 10-point loss <NO1><NO>to Top 25 Tennessee in New York, and were without frontcourt reserves Maurice Sutton (sprained ankle) and Isaiah Armwood (back spasms), which left them with seven available scholarship players.

Two years ago the Hawks (3-4), who lost at Drexel on Wednesday<NO1><NO>, came here and nearly beat a team that would end up in the Final Four.

But the Wildcats have now won 42 in a row on campus, going back almost 4 years. This one ended 71-60. It was their third straight win in this series, and 22nd out of their last 24 against the rest of the Big 5.

The Hawks hung tough early. But Villanova would take a 10-point lead into the break.

It took the Wildcats 5-plus minutes of the second half to extend the margin to 21, following a 13-0 spurt. After that the closest the Hawks would get was nine.

Corey Stokes led the Wildcats with 15 points, Antonio Pena, Corey Fisher and Dominick Cheek all scored 14. The Hawks’ top scorer, Carl Jones, had 19.