PHILADELPHIA — Saint Joseph’s fans love to chant, “The Hawk Will Never Die.”
Someone check for a pulse.
The bird needed some serious CPR.
Villanova turned the Hawks into birds of pray — as in, please, Lord, make the Wildcats miss — with a school-record 19 3-pointers in a 94-53 win on Saturday night.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats (8-0) hit 10 straight 3s to bust the game open and again shine as the dominant class of the city.
“I didn’t notice 10,” coach Jay Wright said, “but I knew we were making shots.”
The Wildcats made 19 of 35 3s; the Hawks had just 21 baskets in the game. Omari Spellman had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Mikal Bridges had 18 points and nine rebounds and Phil Booth had 17 points and eight boards for the Wildcats.
Booth led the charge early for the Wildcats against their Big 5 rivals. The Wildcats, Hawks, La Salle, Temple and Penn comprise the city series field. The Wildcats have emerged as the class of the city and won for the whopping 20th straight time in the series. They’ve won 19 of those games by at least 10 points and haven’t been defeated by a Philly team since Temple won on Dec. 5, 2012.
“We’re now witnessing a blueblood,” coach Phil Martelli said. “That’s the way bluebloods do things.”
Spellman buried a 3 with 3:06 left to give the Wildcats their school-record 18th 3-pointer of the game. The 19 topped the 17 hit on Nov. 27, 2005 vs. Lehigh.
The Wildcats have made a mockery of Big 5 basketball, round-robin play among five Philadelphia Division I basketball teams that dates to 1955 and has been defined by hostile, split crowds and last-shot theatrics.
The only drama of late in the series is just how long teams can keep the deficit within single digits against Villanova.
The Hawks (4-4) put up a spirited fight in front of 4,200 fans at their cozy arena for the first 17 minutes and had the student section going wild in the bleachers. James Demery, who led the Hawks with 14 points, even converted a three-point play to pull SJU to 29-27 and the Hawks took aim on their first win in the series since Dec. 17, 2011.
Well, it was fun for the Hawks while it lasted.
Booth hit a 3, Bridges hit a 3 and Spellman hit two 3s. The 12-0 run that closed the half stretched to 17-0 in the second and 30-4 overall as the Wildcats pulled away from behind the arc. Booth, Bridges and Spellman each hit four 3s.
Martelli, the 2004 AP Coach of the Year, said the Wildcats were a credit to city hoops.
“It’s terrific for the city that we have a nationally ranked program that’s in the top five,” he said.
Saint Joseph’s was a bit undermanned with Charlie Brown Jr. (left wrist) and Lamarr Kimble (left foot) out with injuries. Saint Joe’s has three more games left to put this one behind them before it opens the Atlantic 10 schedule.
Villanova just keeps on rolling and flexed its city muscle against lightweight competition. Once representing the best of Philadelphia basketball, the Big 5 is nothing more than an excuse these days for the Wildcats to pad their nonconference schedule.
Spellman was benched for the first 3:19 of the game for missing weight. Donte DiVincenzo, who finished with 17 points, got the start.
Booth topped his season average of 10.3 points and has been a solid contributor after missing last season with an injured left knee. Booth scored 20 points for the Wildcats in the 2016 national championship game.
“I’ve learned more to appreciate the details of the game,” Booth said. “You learn so much sitting out, so you just try and incorporate what you’ve seen.”
Saint Joseph’s has a week off to regroup before it plays Saturday at Temple.
Villanova heads to Madison Square Garden to play No. 15 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic. It’s the first career game in the series.
“Man, are they good,” Wright said. “It’s going to be a great game.”