NEW YORK (AP)—Scottie Reynolds was having a quiet first half and No. 4 Villanova was in trouble against St. John’s.
For a player able to get to the basket in a flash, the game can change almost as quickly.
Reynolds scored 19 points and the Wildcats pulled away in second half to beat St. John’s 81-71 on Saturday and match the best start in school history.
Villanova equaled the 1950-51 team by improving to 18-1. The Wildcats are 7-0 in the Big East for the first time.
Villanova trailed 36-28 with less than 2 minutes left in the first half before Reynolds led a quick spurt that pulled the Wildcats within a point at the break. He scored six during a 9-2 run, capped by a long jumper with 3 seconds left.
The senior guard had just 9 points in a 94-68 win at Rutgers on Wednesday, although coach Jay Wright knows he could have padded his stats in the rout. In a far closer game Saturday, he scored at the most crucial of times.
“He’s a big shot taker and a big shot maker,” said St. John’s guard Malik Boothe. “He doesn’t worry about missing.”
The Wildcats took control midway through the second half, scoring 12 straight points to go up 60-49 with 10:20 left. Reynolds didn’t hit a field goal during the run, but his speed carried Villanova to six points in 50 seconds.
“I think everybody wants to do it, especially when things are not going your way,” Reynolds said of forcing the tempo. “I think that is a great thing about this team—(we do) not get outside of ourselves. (We) keep playing the way we know how to play and keep doing what we know how to do.”
On two straight possessions, Reynolds burst down the court in transition, drawing a foul and hitting both free throws. Then he fed Isaiah Armwood on another fast break for a dunk. In less than a minute, the Wildcats had transformed a 3-point lead into a 9-point cushion.
The Red Storm (12-7, 2-5) never got closer than six the rest of the way.
“He just sets the tone for the whole team on how we want to play,” Wright said. “We want to play for each other and he does it every night. It is hard to do when you are the best player, and he is maybe one of the best we have ever had at that.”
St. John’s led by as many as 11 in the first half. The Red Storm scored 16 straight point, at one point forcing three Villanova turnovers in five possessions.
Dwight Hardy had 11 points in less than 3 minutes, but then the backup guard didn’t attempt a shot the last 10 minutes of the half. He matched a career high with 19 points.
After shooting over 56 percent in the first half, St. John’s missed 17 of its first 21 attempts to start the second. Leading scorer D.J. Kennedy, who came in averaging 15.6 points, had 10 on 2-of-12 shooting.
“We are doing the right things,” coach Norm Roberts said. “We just have to finish plays.”
Bronx native Corey Fisher scored 18 points for Villanova.
St. John’s backup forward Justin Brownlee, who averages 7.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, missed the game because of a death in the family. Anthony Mason Jr. made his first start of the season in place of Dele Coker against Villanova’s small lineup.
Mason was playing just his fifth game because of a hamstring injury. His 10 points were the most since his return.