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St. John’s Defeats Purr-Plexed Villanova Wildcats, 81-71

Red Storm pick up their first road win at Villanova since the Shamorie Ponds era in 2018

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Role players and guys off the bench shined in St. John’s big road win over Villanova, 81-71.

Chris Ledlum was not able to go in this one due to an ankle injury, and freshman Brady Dunlap — fresh off an 13-point showing against Butler — stepped into the starting lineup.

The Johnnies came out hot early in this one. The first bucket of the game was a tone-setting dunk by Joel Soriano that led the Red Storm to open the contest on a 10-0 run.

After the run, however, the Red Storm went cool rather than cold. After the run, the Johnnies only scored on back-to-back possessions twice for the remainder of the half and the starters collectively started to play like they were protecting a lead rather than trying to build one.

Luckily, the St. John’s bench brought considerable intensity to the contest. RJ Luis, Jr. attacked the rim repeatedly and finished the half with 7 points (1-3 FG, 1-1 3FG) and 3 rebounds. On the other end, Zuby Ejiofor had a pair of highlight blocks and a dunk to get the intensity back up.

Toward the end of the half, the Red Storm took a series of high quality shots that just didn’t go in, which was unfortunate timing with that being about the time Villanova stopped sleepwalking through the game. Over the final two minutes, the Wildcats went on a 6-0 run effectively making St. John’s opening run the difference as the Red Storm went into the half up 34-28.

The Johnnies have struggled this year in the first few minutes coming out of halftime. This afternoon, the Red Storm didn’t look to give up their halftime lead early in the second half.

The good shots St. John’s took toward the end of the first half began falling for the Red Storm for most of the second half. The Johnnies opened the half with a 10-2 run, which helped catapult Daniss Jenkins, who has been in a bit of a funk, into a strong second half showing.

Jenkins, the Iona transfer, matched his season average points per game in the second half alone. Jenkins have averaged just under 13 points per game this season, but in just the second half today, the guard scored 13 points (5-10 FG, 1-3 3FG) and played the whole second half.

In addition to Jenkins, the spot-starting Brady Dunlap filled in his role wonderfully during the whole contest, but particularly in the second half. Offensively, Dunlap’s role was largely just catch-and-shoot, which he did to the tune of 2 of 2 from deep. Additionally, Dunlap didn’t force and miss any shots at the rim, which was a refreshing change for the Johnnies’ starting forwards. Dunlap finished the half with 12 points on a perfect 4 for 4 from the floor.

In the closing moment, Villanova’s Lance Ware got his hands in Joel Soriano’s face, but was only granted a personal foul.

Despite this, behind Jenkins and Dunlap, St. John’s increased their lead some and picked up a double-digit win over Villanova, 81-71.

Next, the Red Storm take on the 23rd ranked Providence Friars on Wednesday, January 10 at 6:30 PM at Madison Square Garden.

St. John’s Red Storm

Joel Soriano: 20 points (7-10 FG, 0-1 FG), 8 rebounds, 3 assists

Daniss Jenkins: 18 points (7-17 FG, 2-5 FG), 3 rebounds, 5 assists

Brady Dunlap: 15 points (5-8 FG, 3-5 FG), 2 rebounds

Villanova Wildcats

TJ Bamba: 23 points (8-14 FG, 2-6 FG), 7 rebounds, 1 assist

Mark Armstrong: 14 points (6-10 FG, 1-2 FG), 3 rebounds, 4 assists