VILLANOVA, Pa. Forty minutes couldnt decide a game between two teams in furious pursuit of a win in their Big East opener, so Wildcats sophomore guard Darrun Hilliard made sure it didnt take more than 45.
Hilliard, who made three clutch free throws with 1:31 to play in regulation to tie the game, scored Novas first two of overtime from the line and had a steal and layup on the ensuing possession to help lead the Wildcats to a 98-86 win.
Villanova had a chance to win in regulation, but St. Johns leading scorer DAngelo Harrison made two free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Once there, it was all Villanova and that started with Hilliard. St. Johns didnt score its first point of overtime until 41.7 seconds remained, and Nova outscored the Red Storm 15-3 in the extra period.
The Wildcats were led in scoring by freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who scored a career-high 32 points in his Big East debut, and sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who had a season-high 26. Arcidiacono made seven threes, 11 of 13 free throws and committed no turnovers until his 31st minute of action.
Harrison, who leads the Red Storm with 20.9 points per game, also set a career-high with 36.
Arcidiacono and Villanovas dominance on the glass gave the Wildcats a three-point lead at intermission despite poor early shooting and a parade of turnovers. Arcidiacono late in the first half had a three-possession span in which he sunk two threes and then made a slick, no-look, cross-court pass to Achraf Yacoubou, who made a three of his own.
The Wildcats made just 6 of their first 21 shots, but in a five-minute span from 7:57 of first half to 2:57, Villanova went 5 for 5 from the field with three threes.
Turnovers nullified Villanovas early success on the glass, however, despite pulling down their season average of offensive rebounds (11) in one half, the Cats also lost the ball 13 times.
Villanova would recover from there and commit just five turnovers in the next 25 minutes.
Red Storm point guard Jamal Branch, making his first start, drew a technical foul late in the first half when he shoved Arcidiacono. It led to four Villanova points and hearty boos every time Branch touched the ball thereafter.
St. Johns leads the all-time series 59-46, but Villanova has won eight of the last nine meetings.
Nova has a week off before heading to Tampa next Wednesday to play South Florida. Villanova at one point was 5-0 against South Florida, but the Bulls have since won four straight meetings.
E-mail Corey Seidman at email@example.com