This Sunday at Madison Square Garden, #13 Villanova fell to St. John’s ending with a score of 71-65.
Villanova got off to a hot start fueled by 3-pointers and offensive rebounds, forcing St. John’s to take a timeout at 20-8. The Villanova’s defense locked up St. John’s after that, forcing their offense into an isolation frenzy; St. John’s failed to score a field goal in 7 minutes. Unfortunately, Villanova’s offense stalled in that time frame, only scoring 14 points compared to St. John’s 8. After a couple minutes of messy play, St. John’s Justin Simon nailed a ¾ court buzzer beater off the backboard to enter the halftime break.
At the half, Villanova led 37-26 with its largest lead at 19 points. Villanova held St. John’s to 31% shooting, but St. John’s went to the free throw line 13 times. Though veterans Eric Paschall and Phil Booth were held to 5 points each on a collective 3 of 8 shooting, the role players supplied a huge boost. Saddiq Bey led the scoring for the Wildcats with 8 points. Off the bench, Jahvon Quinerly and Joe Cremo each added 6 points by making 2 3-pointers a piece. Villanova held standout Shamorie Ponds to 3 points on 1 of 7 shooting, but Justin Simon scored 12 points for the Red Storm.
In the first several minutes of the second half, neither team could settle into reliable offense. After Collin Gillespie got pickpocketed, leading to an easy layup, the referees issued Coach Wright a technical foul, and St. John’s went on a quick 9-0 run. With 7:25 left in the game, St. John’s surged ahead to lead for the first time in the game at 54-53. After Phil Booth had an unusual turnover, the Wildcats went into foul mode with about a minute remaining. At the free throw line, LJ Figueroa made both to lead 63-57, creating their greatest lead of the game. In the final minute, the two teams went back and forth shooting free throws, ending with St. John’s on top 71-65.
The Red Storm starting 5 contributed all of the team’s 71 points with LJ Figueroa leading the team with 24 points. St. John’s finished shooting with 33.9% and 36.4% from deep. For Vilanova, their efficiency dropped in the second half; they shot 33.3% and 30.6% from behind the 3-point line. Eric Paschall and Phil Booth struggled tremendously, totalling 24 points on 4-22 shooting. Saddiq Bey and Joe Cremo’s performances were the bright spots for the Wildcats, pitching in 11 and 14 points, respectively. The Wildcats ceded the #1 ranking in the Big East to Marquette, raising the pressure in the coming weeks.