VILLANOVA, Pennsylvania (Ticker) -- A fired-up Villanova crowd was excited at the prospect of handing Saint Joseph's its first loss of the season. The Hawks disappointed them.
Jameer Nelson scored 23 points as third-ranked Saint Joseph's, taunted with chants of "overrated", held off several second-half runs to defeat Big Five rival Villanova, 74-67, and continue the best start in school history.
"This (win) is certainly a statement about our team," said Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, whose team has been questioned about its schedule. "It should (stop) the nonsense about who we've played."
Delonte West, Nelson's backcourt mate, added 21 points and 11 rebounds as the Hawks improved to 19-0 and remained one of two undefeated teams in the country. Stanford, which is 18-0, is the other.
"We would love to be undefeated but in order to achieve that, we've got to stick to our game plan," said West, who made all 10 foul shots.
Monday's contest was billed as the biggest "Big Five" game in more than a decade and the Villanova student section was filled nearly an hour before tipoff.
But St. Joseph's took the crowd out of the game early, hitting five 3-pointers in the first 11 1/2 minutes to open a 27-8 lead.
The Wildcats ended the first half with a 7-0 spurt to pull within 34-23, then closed to 40-35 on Allan Ray's layup with 15:21 left.
"I think we played tough, but we got beat by a better team," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They executed better. My only hope is that this can be a learning experience for us."
Freshman Mike Nardi scored 16 points and and Ray added 13 for the Wildcats (12-8). Andreas Bloch chipped in with 10, all in the second half to help fuel the comeback attempt.
Pat Carroll added 16 points for St. Joseph's, including a pair of crucial 3-pointers late in the second half. After Bloch's 3-pointer pulled Villanova within 54-50 with 6:48 left, Carroll answered with a pair of shots from behind the arc to make it 60-52 with 5:47 to go.
Carroll was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc, continuing his hot outside shooting. The younger brother of former Notre Dame star Matt Carroll is 20-of-32 from 3-point range in his last four games.
"I didn't get any looks in the beginning of the second half," Carroll said. "I think they were focusing so much on Jameer that it left me open."
Bloch drilled another 3-point on Villanova's next possession to cut the deficit to 60-55, but the Hawks showed poise down the stretch in a hostile environment. Nelson scored eight points in the final five minutes.
"The mental makeup of my team astounds me because that was as raucous an atmosphere as I've seen," Martelli said. "A normal team doesn't win that game."