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Villanova Falls To St. John’s, 81-71

Brian Luppy/Villanovan Photography
Senior guard TJ Bamba tallied 23 points and seven rebounds in the loss.

Villanova felt injured graduate guard Justin Moore’s absence during an 81–71 loss on Saturday at the Finneran Pavilion to St. John’s (11–4, 3–1 Big East).

It was Villanova’s fifth game in a row without Moore on the court since his right knee sprain on Dec. 5 against Kansas State. Moore’s status was listed as day-to-day following Wednesday night’s defeat of Xavier.

“In a game like this, where St. John’s forced us to play at their tempo and we fell into that, I feel like Justin would have been able to calm us down in certain scenarios,” senior guard TJ Bamba said. “We definitely miss his leadership.”

Following an uninspired performance from the offense, Villanova ended its four-game winning streak against St. John’s. The defeat dropped the Wildcats to a tie for first in the Big East with a 10–5 overall record and 3–1 conference record. 

Under new head coach and Hall of Famer Rick Pitino, St. John’s improved to 3-1 in conference play, tied with Villanova, Seton Hall and UConn atop the Big East.

Bamba led the Wildcats with a season-high 23 points and seven rebounds. Meanwhile, senior forward Eric Dixon and sophomore guard Mark Armstrong added 14 points each.

The Wildcats trailed on the scoreboard throughout the duration of the game, struggling to put together a consistent offensive front against the Red Storm.

The visiting team battered the ‘Cats with a 10–0 run to open the game. After five Villanova missed shots over three minutes, Bamba was the first to score, knocking down a three-pointer.

Five minutes into the game, Villanova had connected on just one of eight shots and was down 12–3.

The Red Storm’s early offensive spurt kept the Wildcats well behind, as the deficit increased to 15 nine minutes in.

The Red Storm also came into the game outshooting the Wildcats from the long range. 

St. John’s led 29–20 with just under four minutes to go in the first half on 50 percent shooting from behind the arc, contrasting Villanova’s 20 percent.

Turnovers also stifled the Wildcats. St. John’s scored 14 of its 34 points in the first half off turnovers, while only committing four turnovers that led to Villanova points.

The ‘Cats started to chip away at the Red Storm’s lead in the final minutes of the half. Dixon sank a buzzer-beater to cut the deficit to six going into halftime.

Keeping up with the efficient St. John’s offense continued to be a challenge for Villanova in the second half.

The Red Storm opened the half with the same intensity, going on a 12–5 run across the first four minutes.

The Wildcats fought back and saw some improvement, but could not get within range to threaten the Red Storm’s lead.

A Dixon layup and two drives by Armstrong made the score 46–39 six minutes in, the closest Villanova would get to St. John’s during the second half.

The teams traded fouls late in the game, with the Wildcats scoring 12 points from free throws in the second half.

Bamba committed a technical foul with under two minutes to go, granting St. John’s another point from a free throw.

An ensuing St. John’s technical foul allowed Bamba to repair the damage through two successful free throws.

The ‘Cats were down, 80–68, as the game entered its final minute. While Villanova was unable to connect on any shots from the field, three successful Dixon free throws put the deficit within ten.

St. John’s 81 points were the most any opponent has scored against Villanova this season.

Villanova will be back in the Finn next Friday, Jan. 12 at 8:30 p.m. for a second matchup against DePaul (3–11, 0–3 Big East). The Wildcats defeated the Blue Demons, 84–48, in Chicago on Dec. 23.

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About the Contributor
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis, Co-Sports Editor
Katie Lewis is a sophomore from Miami, FL in her first year as Co-Sports Editor in 2024. From covering games to writing features and profiles, she loves to find the story behind Villanova sports. Pursuing her enthusiasm for writing and journalism in her studies at Villanova, Katie is double-majoring in English and Communication with concentrations in Journalism and Writing & Rhetoric. When Katie isn’t at Holy Grounds working on her next article, she enjoys playing tennis with Villanova’s club team.
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