St. John’s kept it close for stretches, but this choppy game went the Villanova Wildcats’ way this afternoon in Madison Square Garden, 70-57.
St. John’s falls to 8-11, 2-4 in the Big East, while Villanova improves to 16-1, 5-1 in the Big East.
This was not Villanova's best performance, not by a long shot. Senior forward Kris Jenkins (10 points) missed nine of 10 shots from the field. Josh Hart struggled from the floor, deftly defended by Malik Ellison for most of the game; he scored 11 points on 4/13 shots.
And St. John’s led for the first 14 minutes of the game behind some solid play. But Villanova tightened up on defense. On offense, a career-high 19 points from sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo paced the defending national champions.
St. John’s even got within two in the second half after a snaking field goal and a free throw from Malik Ellison.
From that point, four minutes into the second half, St. John's missed two jump shots, had two turnovers from Malik Ellison and then another missed three from Ellison before Josh Hart nailed a three-pointer.
From there, St. John's just didn't have enough scoring to keep it close; and Villanova’s 12-2 run gave them control.
Marcus LoVett went 1/7 in the half. Shamorie Ponds and Malik Ellison, hitting some improbable shots, kept it closer than it could have been, even when the deficit was nearing double digits.
But Kris Jenkins hit his only shot from the field, a three from the top of the key, giving the Wildcats the 11 point lead at 57-48, culminating a slow bleed from when St. John's got within two points.
St. John’s should feel solidly about holding Villanova to 1 point/ possession, forcing 20 turnovers (28% of their possessions).
But the Johnnies’ 17 turnovers - 11 in the first half - lost chances that the team desperately needed to hang with Jay Wright’s tough team. St. John’s improved the turnovers in the second half, but shot 2/12 from outside the arc, unable to shoot their way back from a double-digit deficit.
Mikal Bridges added 12, Eric Paschall added nine and Jalen Brunson added eight - enough scoring to keep Villanova afloat.
Shamorie Ponds led the team with 13 points; Marcus LoVett had 12, Bashir Ahmed had 11 - 10 in the first half. Malik Ellison added 10, all in the second half.
St. John's faces DePaul at home on Monday in Carnesecca Arena at 4:30 PM.