It was late, there were no fans, but St. John’s walloped the third-ranked Villanova Wildcats tonight by the score of 70-59.
St. John’s wins their fifth in a row and have gone 5-1 in their last six Big East games. Villanova, whose only other loss was in overtime against ranked Virginia Tech, falls to 11-2, 6-1 in the Big East. St. John’s improves to 12-7, 6-6 in the Big East.
The result was a shock — as was the way it happened. St. John’s freshman Posh Alexander took the whole game against Villanova star guard personally, and Gillispie responded with one of his worst nights as a lead guard in college.
It wasn’t pretty from the outset, as St. John’s came with the energy, but not the execution early. The Red Storm were hurried and went into the first break shooting 1/8 from the field. Villanova was prepared, and know where to be— packing the paint.
Whatever happened in that first time out worked, because slowly, St. John’s started chipping away and slowing the Wildcats. A 10-0 run, including a vicious Greg Williams Jr. dunk — in his first game back from a back injury, and off of a feed from Posh Alexander — pushed the Red Storm into the lead. The score that put the Red Storm in the lead was an Isaih Moore dunk.
St. John’s started hitting jumpers and forcing miscues from the Wildcats. Villanova’s Collin Gillispie wasn’t hitting threes, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl wasn’t hitting his mid-range jumpers, and the Wildcat offense was dry.
So even though Julian Champagnie was scoreless, even though Villanova had 11 offensive rebounds and five more shots from the field, Posh Alexander’s attacking and the team’s defense kept the Red Storm in the lead at the half, 30-27.
The Johnnies forced turnovers, get better at making the Wildcats rush — and it continued.
A block and two Villanova turnovers gave the Johnnies a nine-point run across the halves. The Johnnies led by ten, and Villanova could only cut the lead to nine. The Wildcats could not string together runs, looking lackluster and beaten at times against the Red Storm pressure.
Julian Champagnie came alive in the second half, rebounding well and hitting some clutch shots. Isaih Moore’s rebounding was effective in the half. And Posh Alexander kept attacking.
St. John’s goes on the road to take on Providence on Saturday afternoon.
St. John’s shot 43% from beyond the arc; more importantly, the Johnnies held Villanova to 27% from deep and 37% inside the arc — along with a season-high 17 turnovers (25% of their possessions).
St. John’s led by 16 from Posh Alexander in a low-scoring game; he had 6 assists and 3 steals. “Posh had a phenomenal night,” Anderson said. “Posh brought the energy and the guys followed his lead. Whoever has the biggest heart, he might top them.”
Julian Champagnie had 14 points on 4/12 shooting, with 13 total rebounds and 3 blocks. his 14 points were all in the second half. “Going into halftime I was a little frustrated,” Champagnie said after the game, “but going into the second half I wanted to go in and play and do what my team needed me to. Today was the day I needed to come out and rebound and push my teammates to be better players.”
Vince Cole added 12, all in the first 25 minutes. Marcellus Earlington may have only had 2 points but he also had 2 blocks and 2 steals. He and Dylan Addae-Wusu were credited to adding defense and physicality early and often.
Greg Williams may have tweaked his back in the second half, Coach Mike Anderson said postgame.
Collin Gillespie was held to 4 points on 2/12 shooting, his lowest scoring output this season.