In an ugly and physical that St. John’s probably needed to win, the Red Storm fell, 75-69.
Villanova’s game plan coming in was to allow St. John’s to shoot from deep and pummel anyone that came into the paint. For long stretches in the first half, the Red Storm took what Villanova game them and let the ball fly from beyond the arc with little success. St. John’s was 4 of 14 from three, which would have been worse if Julian Champagnie and Aaron Wheeler did not knock down a pair of threes in the final four minutes.
Additionally, Villanova wanted to send a message that nothing inside would be permissible. Forty years ago, it might have been described as physical, but today it appeared to be a collection of significantly unnecessary, non-basketball related contact around the basket by Jay Wright’s Wildcats. I suppose it is easier for opponents to act tough when Posh Alexander is out with a boot on his foot. That aside, the game plan worked. The Johnnies were a mere 3 of 13 at rim with only 8 points in the paint and 7 free throw attempts.
Among the Red Storm’s collective offensive woes, Aaron Wheeler rose and kept the Johnnies around in the first half. Wheeler finished with an efficient 12 points on 6 shots, 4 rebounds and an assist. Thanks to Wheeler’s effort, St. John’s went into the half down only 34-28.
To start the second half, Champagnie spent some the first four minutes in the trainer’s room likely due to a hard “ordinary” foul from the Wildcats in the previous half. The absence of the junior forward’s absence and Posh powered Villanova to a 13-0 run early in the second half increasing their lead to 16.
As tends to be the case with this St. John’s teams, they kept fighting but struggled to make a meaningful dent in Villanova’s lead following their run until the final four minutes where the Johnnies arguably ran out of time.
The failures of the Red Storm to contain Justin Moore and Caleb Daniels were what did the Johnnies in early in the half. The duo finished with a combined 18 points on 5 of 11 from the floor and 3 of 7 from deep.
Part of the Johnnies issues was the lack of a second scorer to help Wheeler maintain some open looks. Wheeler was an impressive 11 of 17 from the floor for the contest. However, the rest of the Red Storm were an uninspiring 13 of 58 from the field.
Julian Champagnie’s seeming slump-busting games against Georgetown and Butler may have had more to due with the lack of ability by both Georgetown and Butler rather than an actual return to form. While the potential NBA prospect scored in double figures tonight, which he failed to do during his slump, Champagnie looked timid with the ball and distrusting of his instincts on the catch, but the apparent injury that kept him in the locker-room early in the second half may have had something to do with it.
Despite, the largely bad half, St. John’s clawed their way back. The team was down as little as three with just over thirty seconds to go, but Tareq Coburn clanged a three to tie it, and the Johnnies fell, 75-69.
St. John’s Red Storm
Aaron Wheeler: 31 points (11/17 FG, 6/10 3PT), 7 rebounds, 1 assist
Julian Champagnie: 12 points (4/15 FG, 2/7 3PT), 3 rebounds
Stef Smith: 10 points (4/11 FG, 0/5 3PT), 2 rebounds, 3 assists
Brandon Slater: 17 points (7/10 FG), 7 rebounds, 3 assists
Eric Dixon: 16 points (7/9 FG, 1/2 3PT), 7 rebounds, 3 assists