New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Darrun Hilliard scored 21 points and No. 8 Villanova downed No. 24 St. John's, 90-72, at a lively Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
The Big East Top-25 clash had a March feel with fans of both schools providing plenty of energy in the back-and-forth battle.
The Wildcats (14-1, 2-1 Big East) silenced the Red Storm supporters down the stretch, however, and recovered nicely from their first loss of the season.
Daniel Ochefu led a dominant frontcourt effort that owned a commanding 41-21 rebounding advantage. Ochefu finished with 13 points and 13 boards, while Dylan Ennis added 15 and nine for the victors.
"Teams in this league are very good. The game was not what the score indicated," said Villanova coach Jay Wright. "We could not stop them in the first half."
D'Angelo Harrison led St. John's (11-4, 0-3) with 25 points, while Phil Greene IV netted 14 in the club's third straight loss.
"There are things that we need to improve upon and of course a quality team like Villanova exposes the vulnerabilities of opponents because they are an experienced and deep, championship-level team," said St. John's coach Steve Lavin.
The Red Storm went 11-1 in non-conference play before falling to Seton Hall, Butler and now Villanova over the past week.
The Wildcats also fell to Seton Hall last Saturday in overtime, and they were in another close battle before taking over late.
The game was tied, 54-54, with under 12 minutes to play, and Villanova started its surge with seven straight points. Harrison took an elbow to the mouth during that stretch and was tended to on the sideline. He quickly returned but was not as effective from the point on.
Hilliard's 3-pointer and two free throws gave the Wildcats a 61-54 lead, and points off the offensive glass helped them stay ahead.
Josh Hart's rebound off a missed free throw led to a Kris Jenkins 3-pointer, and another board stemming from an errant free throw resulted in an Ochefu putback dunk that gave 'Nova a 68-59 cushion with 7 1/2 minutes to go.
Another Ochefu layup off an offensive board made it a double-digit game, and the Wildcats cruised over the final six minutes.
The spread was no more than six points in the first half, which ended with St. John's holding a tenuous 35-34 lead.
The Wildcats made 55.7 percent of their shots, including 10-of-23 from 3-point rage ... Villanova has won the last six meetings ... Villanova's bench outscored St. John's reserves 25-7 ... Ryan Arcidiacono totaled nine points and 10 assists for 'Nova.