After a truly awful first half, St. John’s battled back from a 19-point deficit to beat Villanova, 71-65.
The Johnnies improve to 7-6 in conference and 19-7 overall, while Villanova drops to 11-2 in conference and 20-6 overall. St. John’s hits the road seeking some revenge at Providence.
The first half represented the some of the worst basketball St. John’s has played this seasons.
The Red Storm started by going to Mustapha Heron, who was guarded by Eric Paschall, seemingly with the intent to either get Paschall in foul trouble.
After a handful of possessions, St. John’s went away from Heron and the offense devolved into an iso-heavy approach without clearing out the paint.
There was little ball movement, as shown by the 3 assists in the half.
There were even few uncontested shots with St. John’s going 9 of 29 from the field and 1 of 10 from deep.
There was little offensive effectiveness with the Red Storm having an 8 minutes without a field goal.
On the other end, Villanova got everything it wanted. The Wildcats got into the paint with ease, and finished at the rim going 4 of 5 on layups and converting its sole dunk attempt.
When St. John’s collapsed, Villanova converted 8 of 20 from deep.
With under 9 minutes remaining in the half, Villanova had a commanding 19 point lead and was well on its way to a blowout.
But St. John’s did not lay down.
Justin Simon and LJ Figueroa forced the issue late in the half finishing the half with 12 points (4/5 FG, 1/2 3PT) and 6 points (2/6 FG, 0/2 3PT), respectively.
Simon hit a 3/4 court buzzer beater to cut VIllanova’s lead to 37-26 at halftime.
In the second half, the Red Storm brought the intensity on defense holding Villanova to only 1 field goal prior to the U16 timeout.
Despite the early effort defensively, offensive inefficiencies early in the half kept St. John’s from capitalizing.
Marvin Clark II picked up a pair tic-tac fouls preventing him from contributing more than his second half 6 points (2/4 FG, 2/4 3PT), but his second three put him over 1,000 points for his college career.
Figueroa started the half cold after helping the Red Storm close the gap prior to halftime. LJ was 0 of 5 from the field until he laid one in with just over 11 minutes remaining.
Figueroa’s layup helped spearhead a 14-1 run that cut Villanova’s lead to 1, only for Heron to tie the game up moments later and Figueroa to take the lead soon thereafter.
After his cold start to the half, Figueroa did some heavy lifting to maintain the lead. LJ finished the half with 16 points (4/10 FG, 3/4 3PT) and 9 boards.
Villanova could not maintain any momentum in the second half offensively, going 5 of 24 from the field and 3 of 15 from beyond the arc after halftime.
With less than a minute remaining, Villanova started to foul, and St. John’s converted their free-throws to hold onto a win, 71-65.
St. John’s Red Storm
LJ Figueroa: 22 points (6/16 FG, 3/6 3PT), 12 rebounds, 2 assists
Mustapha Heron: 19 points (4/9 FG, 2/4 3PT), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers
Justin Simon: 13 points (4/6 FG, 1/2 3PT), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 turnover
Joe Cremo: 14 points (4/7 FG, 4/7 3PT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Phil Booth: 13 points (2/11 FG, 0/6 3PT), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers