These schools played the very first Big 5 game on Dec. 14, 1955, and the culmination of a yearlong celebration of the City Series saw a game with all the intensity, action and passion that exemplifies the Big 5.
It marked the fourth time in history that two 3-0 teams played for the City Series title and Saint Joseph's has been involved in all of them.
Saint Joseph's (10-10) played one of its best halves of the season, hitting 50 percent of its shot and leading by as many as 13 points, while holding the Wildcats to 30.4% shooting. The Hawks led 34-22 at the break.
Villanova (18-2) came out like a different team in the second half and ran off 10 unanswered points to pull within 34-32. SJU was out of its rhythm from the start, making just one of its first 11 shots and turning the ball over four times during the first 15 possessions. VU's Kyle Lowry converted a 3-point play that gave the Wildcats the lead, 39-37, which they would not relinquish.
Trailing by as many as 16 points, the Hawks trimmed it to 64-54 with 1:36 to play on a layup by Abdulai Jalloh, but Villanova hit 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
"You'd think at this point in the year, you'd be stronger, more manly," said Hawks' coach Phil Martelli. "We weren't manly enough at really any one position tonight in the second half."
Playing in his final game at the Palestra, Chet Stachitas scored 19 points for the Hawks while Jalloh added 15. Dwayne Lee scored 11 points while playing all 40 minutes. Senior Dave Mallon continued to be sidelined with a sprained ankle suffered last week.
Lowry had 25 points for Villanova, which shot 67 percent in the second half.
Several former players from both teams who played in the first Big 5 game were honored, and so were other players and media members from the last 50 years.
The road doesn't get any easier for the Hawks as they face their second consecutive Top 10 opponent when #8 George Washington visits Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on Saturday for a nationally-televised game (ESPN2).