Mix two young teams, add extended pressure defense, two guards who get hot from outside, and a tablespoon of referee Jim Burr and what do you get?
An wild Big East shootout that was a thriller for both sets of fans with hard fouls, elbows, highlight reel turnovers, and big shots, ending with five extra minutes of overtime.
But tired legs led to a weak St. John's foul, a lazy pass, a wild offensive drive by JaKarr Sampson, and St. John's found themselves playing the overtime like the young team they are, outscored 15-3 by the Villanova Wildcats.
St. John's leaves the Main Line with a twelve point point loss, 98-86. St. John's falls to 8-5, 0-1 in the Big East, with Cincinnati coming next on Saturday on the road. Villanova improves to 10-4, 1-0 in the Big East.
There are people who lament the controlled, drain-the-clock style of the Notre Dames and Georgetowns of the world as bleeding interest from the game in favor of controlled defense and coaching.
This game was the opposite. It was freewheeling game of backcourt pressures, player decisions, missed assignments, players with cojones, and a lot of contact.
D`Angelo Harrison and Ryan Arcidiacono both hit career highs in the high-possession game (72 possessions for each team in in the first 40 minutes), getting open against lax perimeter defense and draining shots from the arc (6/12 for Harrison and 7/13 for Arcidiacono). Harrison scored 36 points in 44 minutes of play; Arcidiacono dropped 32 points in 40 minutes on the floor, tying Moe Harkless' freshman debut record from last year.
The two were mirrors - gritty, active playmakers. Arcidiacono heated up in the latter stages of the first half, drawing fouls and hitting "no-conscience" three-pointers to bring his Wildcats into the lead.
Harrison drew a foul in the lane with 4.5 seconds left in regular time with the Johnnies down two; he sank a free throw, waited through a Villanova time out, and hit the second free throw to tie the game.
In overtime, though the Red Storm wilted. Garrett's 8 points and 5 rebounds in the second half had provided a semblance of an interior presence for the Red Storm, enabling the team to come back from a deficit; but he fouled out. Garrett finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds.
Sir`Dominic Pointer also fouled out with 3 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.
On the other side, Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston came alive, scoring 19 of his 26 in the second half and overtime with bull moves, jumpers, and layups.
James Bell paced the Wildcats with 11 rebounds and some critical late defense to keep the ball out of D`Angelo Harrison's hands. That defense led to Phil Greene IV going one-on-one from the top of the key in isolation late, a play that didn't bring success despite his early scoring bursts.
- JaKarr Sampson's Big East debut was less auspicious that Moe Harkless' last year. Sampson was held scoreless until 5:43 in the second half, though St. John's remained within striking distance behind scoring from Phil Greene (15 points, 4 assists) and Jamal Branch (12 points, 3 assists). Sampson (2 points, 6 rebounds) found little space to set up his moves for long mid-range jumpers, and was saddled with foul troubles throughout the game. He only managed 8 minutes in the first half, and fouled out in overtime.
- Center Chris Obekpa struggled at times, but ended with 3 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists, 4 steals, 3 turnovers... and 4 fouls.
- Jamal Branch got the start and often calmed the team down with his play. Some of his pass/ drive/ shoot choices need work (4 turnovers), as well as his response under pressure. His shove of opposing guard Ryan Arcidiacono after a tough box out by the Villanova guard, earned a technical foul. Branch fouled out in overtime, but scored 12 and added 3 assists.
- St. John's shot 10/19 (53%) from beyond the arc, an improvement on their usual 33% mark.
- The two teams shot 53 combined free throws and 20 combined three-pointers, battling all the way into overtime.
- Villanova grabbed 41% of their offensive misses - 17 offensive rebounds.
- St. John's had 16 turnovers. Compared to the pace of the game, though, that wasn't a terrible number - just 20% of their possessions. It's higher than their usual mark, but pace-influenced.
Next for St. John's is a game in Cincinnati, the Queen CIty, against Mick Cronin's ranked Bearcats at 4:00PM Eastern time on ESPNU.