When the Wildcats and Red Storm meet on Wednesday night in Big East Tournament action, both will be seeking a win, but their motivation will likely come from different places. Villanova needs to win at least one game in Manhattan to feel safe on Selection Sunday. On the other hand, St. John's can likely only find it's way into the Big Dance by winning the Big East Tournament, but they'll take some pride in beating a Villanova team that they lost to in overtime back in January.
That game, a 98-86 win for 'Nova, featured some incredible offensive performances. Ryan Arcidiacono set a career-high with 32 points while JayVaughn Pinkston was no slouch with 26 points of his own. On the other side, D'Angelo Harrison scorched the nets with 36 points on some hot outside shooting.
Harrison will not participate in this game after he was suspended for the rest of the season a couple of weeks ago for "conduct detrimental to the team." Even St. John's fans are wondering how the team is going to score without Harrison, and the answer seems to be the supporting cast that actually had a pretty good game against 'Nova last time out.
Phil Greene IV dropped 15 against the 'Cats while Amir Garrett chipped in with 12. They'll be focal points of the offense again with Harrison out. Sir'Dominic Pointer, fresh off his suspension for a fistfight in the Notre Dame game, will be back in action as well and he's your prototypical stat sheet stuffer. And beware of All-Big East Rookie Chris Obekpa in the defensive post as well - he's averaging over 4 blocks per game in Big East play.
The biggest unknown for Villanova is probable Big East Rookie of the Year Jakarr Sampson. Sampson was blanketed against 'Nova in January, dropping just 2 points on 1-6 shooting while fouling out. That's no indication of his true talent however, and that might be a scary prospect for Jay Wright and his assistants as they gameplan for Wednesday night.
What worked the first time around (other than Arcidiacono getting absurdly hot from the outside) will likely work again. The first half was a flurry of shots from both teams, but it was Jay Wright's halftime adjustments that won the game. While Arch and Harrison went shot-for-shot in the opening 20, a healthy dose of JayVaughn Pinkston won the game for Villanova in the second half after the 'Nova coach opted to slow things down and let the offense run through his sophomore star.
Pinkston is a matchup nightmare and when he's clicking, he's the most dangerous offensive player Jay Wright can deploy. The Johnnies didn't have anyone capable of guarding Pinkston either inside or out, and his bruising low-post play helped foul out more than one ohnnies' player. As his game has grown this season, his passing has improved as well and he's been able to find open players cutting to the hoop or outside for an open 3. If Pinkston is eatin' good in the neighborhood (see what I did there?), it's easy to see Villanova winning.
The other important variable, as it has been all season, is turnovers. Villanova gave is away 18 times against St. John's earlier this season, but 13 of those came in the 1st half. Better yet, Arch didn't record a single TO until the final minutes of the game. No surprise that as the turnovers fell off in the 2nd half, Villanova found more offensive success and was able to crush St. John's in OT. As the season has progressed, this has been a major positive trend for Villanova, and it will need to continue against a wounded St. John's team.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm ET, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
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