NEW YORK -- Jay Wright sounded like a coach whose team had just come off a loss, crediting the opposition while admonishing his own squad.
Wright's No. 3 Villanova Wildcats didn't play well, but were able to overcome 20 turnovers, a poor start and dismal shooting from two of their stars, to take down St. John's, 70-57, before 17,309 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Donte DiVincenzo came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points, helping the Wildcats (17-1, 5-1 in the Big East) to hand the Red Storm (8-11, 2-4) their fourth straight loss.
Villanova has won 16 of the last 17 games against St. John's. The loss was the third in the last four games to ranked teams. The Red Storm lost to No. 10 Creighton (85-72) and No. 16 Xavier (97-82).
Josh Hart, the Big East's Preseason Player of the Year, made 4 of 13 shots from the floor and finished with 11 points got Villanova.
Kris Jenkins, who hit the buzzer-beater that gave the Wildcats the national championship against North Carolina last season, made only 1 of 10 shots and scored 10 points.
"That was an example of a young hungry team (St. John's) playing harder than a veteran team," Wright said. "I'm disappointed in our effort and I'm impressed with St. John's.
"I hope we can learn from this and play better. We didn't respond to their aggressiveness. We weren't focused. We didn't pay attention to our scouting report.
"We just didn't bring it. Starting like that is going to catch up to us."
The Wildcats got off to a sluggish start, converting only two of their first 10 shots and committing six turnovers in the first eight minutes.
The one element the Wildcats shined in was the ability to convert points on the offensive boards. Wright's team secured 13 offensive rebounds, outscoring the Red Storm, 14-1, on second-chance points.
"We didn't make shots," Wright said. "So having experienced guys like Josh (Hart), Kris (Jenkins) and Darryl (Reynolds) know we're not making shots, so go get offensive rebounds, I think that was the difference."
Guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett led St. John's, who start two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
St. John's trailed the entire second half. Villanova closed out the game by hitting 10 of its 12 shots.
"I think down the stretch, it came down to getting the 50-50 balls and they (Villanova) obviously won that battle," St. John's guard Malik Ellison said.
"The fact that we went out there and battled with them shows we can play with anybody in the country."
The Wildcats went on a 7-0 burst in 1:38 to extend their lead to 60-48 with 4:55 remaining.
A jumper by DiVincenzo gave the Wildcats a 51-41 lead with 8:36 left to play.
"We never found our offensive rhythm and that's due partly to not rebounding the ball," Red Storm coach Chris Mullin said. "I told the guys, minus the rebounds, the effort was good.
"I give (Villanova) credit. Their zone slowed us down."
Hart picked up his third foul and exited with Villanova leading 38-36 at the 16:56 mark of the second half. He returned two minutes later and drained a 3-pointer for a 44-36 edge.
Villanova led 35-29 at the half despite committing 12 turnovers, four in the last 1:51.
A traditional 3-point play by Eric Paschall gave the Wildcats their first lead of the half at 25-24 at the 5:21 mark. That was followed by a 3-pointer by DiVincenzo upping the lead to 28-24 and culminating a 9-0 run in 1:12.
Ponds' 3-pointer, the Red Storm's fifth of the half, gave St. John's a 22-16 lead with 7:26 left in the half.
The Red Storm jumped out to a 6-0 lead, taking advantage of some poor possessions by the Wildcats, who despite the cold shooting from the floor, were 5 of 6 from the line and trailed only 12-10, 5:55 into the game.
-- St. John's and Villanova have quick turnarounds. On Monday, the Red Storm host DePaul and the Wildcats host Seton Hall.
-- Villanova is the highest-ranked opponent St. John's has hosted since Dec. 15, 2013, when No. 2 Syracuse visited Madison Square Garden.
-- This was the 113th meeting between St. John's and Villanova. The Red Storm leads the series, 60-53.