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St. John’s Forfeits Double-Digit Lead, Falls to Villanova 78-63

A poor finish to the first half followed by a poor second half leads St. John’s to their first Big East loss of the season

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Villanova Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s had a first half, double-digit lead, but collapsed and eventually lost to Villanova, 78-63.

Big East play, after a brief interruption by Florida State, continued against the Villanova Wildcats. After the conclusion of the Johnnies’ 119th ranked out of conference schedule, the Red Storm appeared ill-prepared for either a competitive opponent or a road game environment. To make matters worse, Rafael Pinzon, St. John’s best offensive sparkplugs, was out for reasons currently undisclosed.

The first half was good for St. John’s, at least for the first 16 minutes. The four minutes of bad that followed it were comparable to the Red Storm’s abysmal start against Iowa State or the collapse against Villanova last season in the Big East Tournament.

The Red Storm methodically built up an 11-point lead over the first 14 minutes of the contest. St. John’s went to Soriano early and often in the contest with the big mane scoring 4 points on 4 shots in the first 7 minutes. After that, the team went away from Soriano, and he only had one shot attempt over the final 13 minutes.

Mike Anderson had previously said Soriano sometimes doesn’t get the ball because he doesn’t get big in the post. Other times, the Johnnies settle for heat check threes from guys who don’t have a hot hand. In the first half, it seemed to be a combination of the two.

Fortunately for St. John’s, the threes were dropping early for Montez Mathis (2-4 3PT), AJ Storr (2-3 3PT), and David Jones (1-3 3PT).

The problems arose in the final four minutes when the shots stopped dropping for the streaky shooting Johnnies and they dumped the ball into Soriano only once in that period.

During that stretch, Villanova went on a tear. Brandon Slater scored all 7 of his first half points (2-5 FG, 1-3 3PT) during the final 4 minutes of the half, largely willing his team to a 13-0 run and back into the ballgame.

Halftime interrupted the Red Storm collapse and the team went into the half down only 35-31.

However, even after halftime, the Johnnies’ abysmal performance continued.

The adjustments to the gameplan remained clear — St. John’s need to be an inside out team, so Soriano needs to touch the ball. Soriano’s offensive production improved in the second half, scoring 13 points (5-7 FG).

When Soriano went to the bench, St. John’s lost its offensive identity. One one possession, the Red Storm played five guys behind the three point line that resulted in an open three for O’Mar Stanley, who has yet to make a three in his collegiate career. Stanley just getting an open look may have been a highlight of the Johnnies’ offense in the second half, as the rest of the shot selection was rushed, contested, or both.

Despite the uptick in offense from Soriano, the Wildcats were able to get to and finish at the rim with ease. Villanova scored 41% of their total points at the rim in the game. Such would’ve been higher before St. John’s at least started fouling at the rim, as 21% of the Wildcats' points came from the free throw line, which were largely the result of fouls at the rim.

As a result of the poor showing by St. John’s over the final 24 minutes of the game, they fell to Villanova, 78-63.

St. John’s Red Storm

Joel Soriano: 17 points (7-12 FG), 13 rebounds

AJ Storr: 15 points (6-9 FG, 3-5 3PT), 1 rebounds

David Jones: 9 points (4-14 FG, 1-5 3PT), 8 rebounds, 3 assists

Villanova Wildcats

Eric Dixon: 18 points (7-16 FG, 2-5 3PT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists

Brandon Slater: 16 points (4-8 FG, 2-4 3PT), 4 rebounds