Men’s Basketball Crushes St. John’s, 81-58


Courtesy of @novambb Instagram

Brandon Slater jumps for a slam dunk against Saint John’s.

Billy Vinci, Co-Sports Editor

The Villanova Wildcats defeated the St. John’s Red Storm 81-58 on Tuesday night at the Finneran Pavilion to improve to 14-3 on the year and 9-2 in Big East play.  

Redshirt junior Caleb Daniels finished with the high for the Wildcats, leading the way with 17 points on 6-8 shooting, including 4-6 from deep to go with two rebounds, and two assists. Senior guard Collin Gillespie added 14 points and five assists, while senior wing Jermaine Samuels also added 14 points on 2-2 shooting from three while grabbing nine rebounds. 

“We just had to get back to playing Villanova basketball, making sure that we were defending and rebounding. This was our most important game because it was our next game, not because it was against St. John’s or [for] payback,” Gillespie said. 

The final Wildcat in double digits was sophomore big Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who contributed 12 points and six rebounds. 

“Good effort, I was proud of our guys,” said head coach Jay Wright. “We have great respect for St. John’s. They taught us a lot last game, when you get beat like that you got to give them respect, learn from it, then you have to grow.” 

The Wildcats were able to get revenge on St. John’s after the Red Storm handed Villanova their first Big East loss of the season in a 70-59 defeat back on February 3rd.  

This time around, the Wildcats came out firing, not nearly as affected by the Red Storm press as they were in their first meeting in New York. Shots falling in general usually helps, and Villanova went 4-6 from deep in the first eight minutes of play after hitting only eight in the entire game the first time against St. John’s. 

Gillespie was especially hot, contributing 10 points, including two three’s, in the first 10 minutes of play before committing his second foul of the half and having to take a seat for the rest of the first half.  

The Red Storm did tighten up their defense some in the middle of the first half and forced some turnovers with the press, but the Wildcats drew fouls and showed improvement at the press break to take a 34-19 lead into the last four minutes of the half. 

Wright also expanded his bench. Both redshirt freshman Eric Dixon and sophomore Bryan Antoine saw action in the first half. In total, nine Wildcats got playing time early on. 

The Wildcats built on their lead in the last minutes of the half, and went into the break with a 42-25 advantage. After scoring just 59 points against the Red Storm in their first meeting, 42 points for Villanova in 20 minutes was a marketed improvement. By the half, the Wildcats had shot 6-14 (42.9%) from three and 16-32 (50%) from the field. They held up on the defensive end as well, holding St. John’s to 2-13 (15.4%) shooting from deep and 9-31 (29%) overall. 

The second half didn’t include as much offensive basketball as the first twenty minutes did. The Wildcats had four early turnovers, and there were multiple timeouts for referees to take a look at the monitor for a variety of reasons. 

Regardless of the sloppier theme the second half took on, the Wildcats still remained in control of the game and held a 56-34 lead with just under twelve minutes left as a Cole Swider three forced the Red Storm to call timeout. 

Both teams continued to struggle to make shots as the second half progressed, but the offensive struggles by the Wildcats were offset by enough defensive success. Wright continued to give Dixon and Antoine some playing time in the last ten minutes, as the Wildcat lead was 64-42 with less than eight minutes left. 

That would be more than enough the rest of the way, as sophomore Chris Arcidiacono made an appearance and newly enrolled freshman Trey Patterson made his collegiate debut. 

The Wildcats finished 11-26 (42.3%) from three and 29-60 (48.3%) from the field overall, an enormous difference from the first matchup. One of the most important pieces defensively for Villanova was preventing St. John’s from hitting threes, as the Red Storm went only 3-23 (13%) from deep. 

The Wildcats return to action Sunday at noon at Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse, where they will return for the NCAA tournament in just a couple of weeks.