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Big East Tournament Quarterfinal Preview: St. John’s vs Villanova

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St. John’s looks to notch another win against a very tough Villanova.

Frank Franklin II-Associated Press

After a big win against DePaul in the first round of the Big East Tournament, St. John’s will play their quarterfinal game today against the conference two-seed Villanova Wildcats.

The Red Storm played a great game against DePaul, firing on all cylinders en route to a 92-73 victory. Julian Champagnie showed up when he needed to, scoring 26 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the win.

Villanova will be coming into tonight’s matchup fresh after their first round bye, and will be a tough matchup for the Johnnies, as they currently are ranked #8 in the country in the AP Poll. They closed out their season well, winning seven of their last eight games.

Tonight’s matchup could be the toughest one that St. John’s would have to face in this Big East Tournament, and is obviously another must win game for the Red Storm. If they play another good game, they have a shot to notch another win and move closer to a Big East Championship.

Game Information

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (17-14, 9-11 Big East) vs Villanova Wildcats (23-7, 16-4 Big East)

When: Thursday, March 10, 2022, 7:00 PM

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

TV: FS1

Odds: Villanova -6

This Season: Villanova took both games, with the Johnnies keeping it fairly close both times.

Recapping the Season Series

Villanova hosted the first matchup between the teams on January 29, and came away with a 73-62 win. The Johnnies had one of their worst offensive games of the season, struggling to score in any capacity as shown by their field goal percentage of 39.7%, three point percentage of 19%, and free throw percentage of 47.1%.

Montez Mathis was the Red Storm’s leading scorer, pouring in 14 points on 6-10 from the field. Julian Champagnie struggled, scoring nine points on 4-12 from the field and 0-4 from three. Posh Alexander also did not produce, with seven points on 2-8 from the field.

Villanova shot very well from deep and at the line, going 47.8% from three and 83.3% from the stripe. Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie led the Wildcats in scoring, putting up 17 points on 5-7 from the floor. Starting forward Eric Dixon had a very productive game, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven boards. Guard Caleb Daniels provided some offense off the bench, scoring 15 points in addition to his five rebounds.

On February 8, St. John’s failed to defend home court and split the season series with a 75-69 loss. The Johnnies again struggled with offensive efficiency, going 24-75 from the field and 9-33 from deep, and missed Posh Alexander, who was out due to an ankle injury. Their bright spot from the loss was Aaron Wheeler, who had a career night with 31 points and seven rebounds. Julian Champagnie and Stef Smith both scored 12, but did so on a combined 8-26 from the field and 2-12 from deep.

Villanova had a solid offensive game, only struggling from deep where they went 5-21. They relied on a team effort to get their points, as Collin Gillespie did not score but grabbed 10 rebounds while dealing with an ankle injury. Justin Moore, Eric Dixon, Brandon Slater, Jermaine Samuels, and Caleb Daniels each scored in between 13 and 16 points for the Wildcats.

Keys to the Game

Get ahead early. The Red Storm had a comfortable second half against DePaul because of the lead they built up in the first half. Against Nova, the Red Storm need to come ready to play from the opening whistle, hitting their shots early and establishing a first half lead.

Use depth. Depth is really crucial in a tournament where St. John’s would need to win four games in four days, and it was something on full display against the Blue Demons. Mike Anderson used the lineups that worked against DePaul, and will need to do so again versus a deep Wildcat squad.

Compete in the backcourt. The Johnnies will be playing against the best guard in the conference in Gillespie and his very capable backcourt mate Justin Moore. The Red Storm need a good game out of their guards where offense and good shots are produced in the backcourt and Gillespie and Moore are contained.

Prediction

St. John’s pulls off the big upset and lives to see another day with a 70-66 win.