“I’m just going with guys that are fighting. They’re giving themselves a chance.”
These were the remarks of St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson after his team lost to Seton Hall, their fifth loss in six games. The squad has played some solid stretrches, and has gotten decent developmental play from the likes of Julian Champagnie and others, but the Johnnies simply have not been able to put enough defense and offense and execution together to pull out Big East wins.
The Red Storm have been handled by the Big East’s best. They have been played off the court by both Creighton and Seton Hall. They must be better if they hope to knock off Villanova on the road.
Will St. John’s put on a better road performance in Philadelphia?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (14-13, 3-11 Big East) vs. #12 Villanova Wildcats (21-6, 10-4 Big East)
When: Wednesday, February 26th, 6:30 PM ET
Where: Finneran Pavilion, Villanova, PA
TV: Fox Sports 1 | Fox Sports Go
Audio: St. John’s website provides free audio for the game. The stream can be found by clicking here.
Last Meeting: Just over a month ago, the Wildcats outmatched St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. They won that contest by a 79-59 score.
Last Big East game: St. John’s visited Newark this past weekend, falling to the Seton Hall Pirates 81-65.
Villanova took care of business last weekend, traveling to Cincinnati to knock off Xavier. They were led by Saddiq Bey who had 22 points.
Scouting the matchup with the Wildcats
Incredibly consistent in their lineup and with a Big East losing streak out of the way, Villanova looks to be rolling right now after winning four straight games. To be fair, those four games include a close win over Marquette at home and three road wins against DePaul, Temple, and Xavier, who are 7-8 in the Big East.
Not a murderers’ row of talent, but St. John’s was swept by Xavier and is just a game ahead in the standings than DePaul, by virtue of beating DePaul twice.
In the previous matchup, St. John’s led early on and started competitively, but faltered in the middle of the first half as the bench could not keep the momentum going.
By the stats, Nick Rutherford finished with four points, four turnovers and five steals, while Greg Williams Jr., David Caraher, Damien Sears and Mustapha Heron combined to score three points — all from Heron.
Villanova’s Saadiq Bey hit five threes in the game, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl took down four offensive rebounds and 10 defensive boards, and the Wildcats cruised, shooting 53% inside the arc and 41% from deep.
Comparatively, the Red Storm connected on 32% of their outside shots and only assisted on 36% of their made baskets, their second-lowest percentage of the season. (The lowest was against Vermont.)
The Red Storm, now without Mustapha Heron down the stretch, will need some kind of contributions on offense from Williams/ Caraher/ Rutherford — along with excellent games from LJ Figueroa, Julian Champagnie and Marcellus Earlington. Villanova rarely gets called for fouls, and their defense is second-best in the Big East, filled with tall and athletic players.
And they will need to find a way to apply chaos on Villanova, a team that is 21st best in the nation at not turning the ball over.
And they need to stop Villanova from dominating the glass, while also stifling their three-point shooting.
Other than that, should be an easy game for the Johnnies.
Keys to Game
Close out on the perimeter: The Wildcats have success as a team shooting from distance. As a team, they are shooting just about 36% from three. Villanova focuses much of their offense on getting open three-pointers, as 40% of their total scoring comes from beyond the arc. St. John’s needs to step out and defend the three if they have any chance at victory.
Get in passing lanes: Villanova plays very smart basketball, as they rarely turn the basketball over. Only 16% of Villanova possessions end with a turnover, while 7% of their possessions conclude with a non-steal turnover. Once again, they do not make costly mistakes. Do not expect this Wildcats team to shoot themselves in the foot. As a result, the Red Storm have to be hyper-active on defense, attempting to get Villanova out of their flow.
Scoring: Villanova is an incredibly sound offensive team, and they will not be shy about putting points on the board. St. John’s has to do their best to keep close with the Wildcats, hopefully by shooting at a high percentage. If the Red Storm are going to pull the upset, they are going to need their shots to fall at a high clip.
Both of these teams are going in opposite directions. Villanova is competing for the Big East regular season title, and gearing up for a postseason run. St. John’s has struggled immensely in conference action. Expect the Wildcats to win comfortably.
Villanova: 80 | St. John’s: 65