The #9 Villanova Wildcats beat Big East rival, St. John’s, 57-54 before an enthusiastic crowd of 17,000+ at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon, February 22nd. In a game reminiscent of the old Big East Conference, each possession was fiercely contested, and neither team gave the other any breathing room in the nationally televised match-up (Fox Sports 1).
Villanova jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead as Darrun Hilliard hit a pair of treys and JayVaughn Pinkston scored a bucket. The Red Storm rallied back, going on a 9-0 run to take the lead on Freshman Rysheed Jordan’s basket at the 15:14 mark of the first half. Villanova regained the lead on another three-pointer from Hilliard, only to see St. John’s tie the score on a D’Angelo Harrison basket at 13-13. James Bell put the Wildcats back in front 16-13 when he connected on a three-pointer. A basket by Jordan, the erstwhile “Prince of North Philly”, gave the Red Storm the lead 21-20 with 5:27 to go in the half. A lay-up by Josh Hart put the Wildcats back in the lead 22-21. The half ended with Villanova clinging to a one point edge, 28-27.
Both teams played tough, physical defense throughout the first-half. Villanova held the Red Storm to 28.1% shooting (9 of 32) , including 2 of 7 from distance (28.6 %). On the other hand, Villanova hit 39.3% of its field goal attempts, including 4 of 12 three-pointers. Hilliard paced the Wildcats with 11 points. Phil Greene IV scored 8 for St. John’s.
St. John’s grabbed the lead back early in the second half 30-28 on a basket by Jordan, playing in his first game in Philadelphia as a collegian. Villanova regained the lead on a three-pointer by Hilliard 33-30 at the 17:36 mark. A James Bell triple gave Villanova a 6 point edge 44-38 with 11:15 to go in the game. St. John’s stormed back (no pun intended) to tie the game 47-47 with 7:59 remaining on a layup by Sir Dominic Pointer. After Villanova broke the tie on a Bell three-pointer 50-47, St. John’s again knotted the game on a pair of free throws by Greene at 50-50 with 5 minutes left to play.
Villanova took the lead (53-50) for good with 3:44 to go on a triple from Ryan Arcidiacono. St. John’s cut Villanova’s lead to 54-53 on a jumper by Harrison with under a minute to play. Despite missing several free throws down the stretch, the Wildcats persevered and won the Big East battle 57-54 to send the VU faithful home happy.
Hilliard was the game’s high scorer with 18, on 6-8 shooting, including 4 of 5 from long range. Arcidiacono joined Hilliard in double figures with 12 points. Daniel Ochefu grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to lead the Wildcats, who won the battle of the boards 41-33. Villanova shot 39.2% from the field, hitting on 20 of 51 field goal attempts, including 9 of 22 three-point shots (40.9%). Villanova, however, shot a miserable 8 of 16 from the charity stripe.
St. John’s was led in scoring by Harrison with 15, albeit on 4 of 15 shooting. Jordan had 13 and JaKarr Sampson added 12 to go with his team high 10 boards.
With the victory, Villanova improved to 24-3 overall, 12-2 Big East. St. John’s, which came into the game winners of nine of their last 10 games (including 6 straight conference contests), fell to 18-10, (8-7 Big East) with the loss. Villanova returns to action on Wednesday night February 26th, hosting Butler at the Pavilion. The Wildcats will host their Senior Night celebration prior to the 8pm game. The Red Storm next play on February 25th when they take on Xavier at Madison Square Garden in a 7pm affair.