The St. John’s Red Storm came out a bit slow, letting the #9/11 Villanova Wildcats get out to an 8-0 lead. JayVaughn Pinkston (5 pts, 9 reb) seemed to be a thorn in the Johnnies’ side, as he assisted on a Darrun Hilliard (18 pts, 4 reb) three-pointer and dropped home a basket of his own during the initial run. St. John’s responded with their own 9-0 run, highlighted by two Phil Greene (9 pts, 3 ast) three-pointers from opposite corners. The stage wasn’t too bright for St. John’s, but as the game went on, St. John’s was not able to turn defense into offense at key points in the game, and did not clear key defensive rebounds down the stretch on their way to losing 57-54.
D’Angelo Harrison (15 pts, 5 rebs, 2 ast) and Rysheed Jordan (13 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast) both needed to play strong games. Harrison was often seen murmuring about perceived no calls, and it was hard not to worry that he would lose his focus. Jordan, who played for the first time in front of his hometown Philadelphia crowd, committed a team high of 5 turnovers.
Chris Obekpa’s importance cannot be measured by the stats in the box score. His presence alone is enough to discourage opposing teams from trying to get to the rim. When he left the game in the first half, with 5:27 to play, Villanova had 8 points in the paint to close the half. His importance on offense also cannot be missed. He now presents a viable offensive threat and forces opposing teams to respect his ability to score – something that was missing early in the season.
St. John’s should be proud of the way they played. The Johnnies held Villanova to a season low of 57 points, and JaKarr Sampson (12 pts, 10 reb, 2 blk) continues to improve defensively by using his length and athleticism. When St. John’s was down by 2, and had the ball in their possession with .14 seconds remaining, Harrison passed up a shot at the free-throw line, and instead passed it to Phil Greene, who would travel by trying to make a pass in the post. The future will all be up to the Red Storm’s ability to make the right decision during crunch time; that will determine how far this team can go. St. John’s is now 18-10, 8-7.
Coach Lavin stated after the game, “We are disappointed that we didn’t come out with the win, but I’m proud of our team’s ability to punch and counterpunch in this hostile environment against a Top 10 team for 40 minutes. We now turn our focus to Xavier on Tuesday.”