When these teams met a month ago, it was back-and-forth until the final minute when Villanova pulled away in a 76-71 win. Even with the Game in Philadelphia, St. John’s had the lead for the majority of the Game until ‘Nova hit a three with a couple minutes left and never looked back. In fact, the Red Storm led 67-62 late and then fell into a hole and couldn’t get out.
If the Storm want to make the NCAA Tournament, this is the type of win that would push them through. They’ve already swept Creighton and Marquette, but have struggled against most other teams in the Big East and need to add another nice win to the resume if they want to play in March Madness. They played great in that first meeting until the final couple minutes. The only problem was that they shot a ton of threes, going 13-for-35 from distance, but 13-for-26 from inside the arc. Hoping to beat Villanova with that same method likely won’t work, but the good news is that St. John’s doesn’t usually play like that. Then again, some of that had to do with Villanova’s defense so that can’t be overlooked.
To win this Game, the Red Storm need a little more from everyone outside of Shamorie Ponds (20.5 ppg), who dropped 23 points in that first Game. Justin Simon and LJ Figueroa put in solid efforts, but Marvin Clark and Mustapha Heron were left to jack up threes and finished a combined 6-for-20 from the field. St. John’s had a chance in that first Game because it has the same type of team as Villanova, from playing small ball with Figueroa and Marvin Clark down low, to the solid options of Ponds, Simon and Heron in the backcOurt. But to upend Villanova, like it did last year, the Red Storm need to stop the most efficient offense in the Big East.
Consistent defense has been the biggest question for the Storm and that’ll decide this Game after Eric Paschall and Phil Booth combined for 48 points in that first meeting. The path is clear for St. John’s because it’s unlikely Paschall and Booth will combine to go 9-for-16 from deep again. But while those guys may not be as efficient, the Wildcats have gotten more out of Collin Gillespie the last few weeks, from dropping 30 points against Georgetown to eight assists in the recent win over Providence. That trio combined with a solid supporting cast of Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Saddiq Bey and Jermaine Samuels, is why most haven’t been able to keep up with this offense.
St. John’s already knows it can beat Villanova and as long as others step up around Ponds, that will be enough to get the upset win at home. Ponds should get his buckets even in a tough matchup against Booth, but it’ll be up to the others like Heron and Figueroa to put in good performances. The other part is that St. John’s doesn’t play another NCAA Tourney-worthy team the rest of the way, which means this is their last chance to get a big win in the regular season.
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