Wildcats Quell Red Storm


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Wildcats Quell Red Storm

Greg Welsh

In a crucial Big East battle between two of the presumed favorites for the conference title, the Villanova Wildcats prevailed over the 24th ranked St. John’s Red Storm, 76-71, at the Finneran Pavilion on Tuesday night. 

“What a great college basketball game that was,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “That was a really good basketball team we just played. I’m really proud of our guys, just sticking together”.  

Seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth led the way for the ‘Cats, scoring 25 and 23 points respectively, and shooting a combined 16/30 from the field. St. John’s Shamorie Ponds, the leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year, scored 23 to pace the Red Storm. 

The game’s early stages belonged to the visitors. St. John’s knocked down four of their first five three point attempts as they raced to a 14-2 lead. The Johnnies would continue to fire from deep for the rest of the first half, but with a bit less success, finishing the first 20 minutes 9-21 as a team from three-point range. 

Paschall kept the ‘Cats within striking distance with 17 first half points on 6/9 shooting. Freshman Jahvon Quinerly also provided a spark for Villanova off the bench with two steals and four points in the opening half. 

With a lead as big as 13 at one point during the first half, St. John’s maintained a five-point advantage, 39-34, as the teams headed to the locker room. 

Coming out of the intermission, St. John’s built their lead back to 12 with strong collective play. ‘Nova responded with an 8-0 run of their own, fueled by triples from both Saddiq Bey and Booth, forcing a St. John’s timeout with the score 50-47. The Wildcats continued this run after the timeout and took their first lead of the game, 51-50, off a Phil Booth scoop layup with 14:27 remaining. The lead did not last long however, as Ponds put the Red Storm back in front with a layup of his own on the ensuing possession. With the Red Storm staying out in front, a miraculous four-point play by Ponds with 10:30 left put the Red Storm ahead 59-51. ‘Nova fought back however, with stout defense helping them to tie the game at 62 with 5:17 remaining. St. John’s responded once again, taking a 67-62 lead after Justin Simon powered to the basket for a layup with 4:07 to go. Not to be outdone, Booth had the answer for the Wildcats knocking down back to back three pointers to put the ‘Cats up by one with 1:48 to go. This time, Villanova would not relinquish the lead, converting on timely free throws to capture the victory. 

With the win, Villanova moves to 12-4 on the season and 3-0 in Big East play. The ‘Cats are the only remaining Big East team unbeaten in the conference. ‘Nova will return to action on Sunday Jan. 13 when they travel to Creighton to face the Blue Jays.