Villanova @ St. John's: Keys to Victory

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

The Villanova Wildcats will take on the St. John’s Red Storm Saturday at 1pm at Madison Square Garden. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Villanova is coming off a 16-point victory over Seton Hall, a game in which Jayvaughn Pinkston recorded his 1,000th point in a Villanova uniform. Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, and JayVaughn Pinkston scored 50 of the team’s 83 points.

"It wasn't pretty at times," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "But we were able to grind it out and get a victory. That's what you have to do if you want to be a good team."

The Pirates hung tough for 30 minutes until the Wildcats pulled away.

"We all know that Seton Hall is missing some important guys," noted Wright, "but we knew they would battle us, drill threes and make it tough on us."

St. John’s has lost their last two games, at Butler and Georgetown. They lost those games by a total margin of 27 points. On the season, they have no "key" victories, nor any bad losses.

Here is how the teams have performed in some statistical categories:

Stat Villanova St. John's
Points per game 81.3 73.1
Rebounds per game 39 37
Assists per game 16.3 13.3
FG% 46.2% 44.5%

Keys to Victory

Establish JVP early and often

JVP will be playing in his backyard on Saturday. When asked if he enjoys playing at Madison Square Garden, he replied,

"I don't like playing there with all the pressure, however I look forward to the challenge."

He also noted a lot of family and friends will be in attendance.

Well, he indeed has a tough challenge ahead. Typically, Pinkston has struggled against bigger front courts. St. John’s has a couple of big, long, shot blockers down low, including Chris Obekpa, Orlando Sanchez, Jakaar Sampson and Sir Dominic Pointer. As a group, these four players account for 8.5 blocks per game. This could be a game where St. John’s won't have to double team Pinkston because they trust their bigs down low to stop him. That could hurt the Wildcats in a sense that the shooters on the perimeter won't be able to get open as easily as they have been with Pinkston dominating down low in recent games.

This is a time where not having size can really hurt you because it gives a player like Pinkston an unfavorable matchup. He will most likely be against a much bigger 4 (or the power forward) of the Red Storm. Hopefully he can use his body to draw contact, get to the line and make the big men of St. John’s get in foul trouble. Jay Wright and his staff will have to find ways to get their leading scorer the ball in a position to succeed. Coach Wright has admittedly stated that he did a poor job getting Pinkston touches against Syracuse and knows that he makes plays and needs the ball in his hands.

Don't sleep on St. John’s

The Red Storm is coming off back-to-back Big East losses and will be hungry for a win. They have played ranked teams such as Syracuse and Wisconsin at the Garden this year. Although they lost both games, they played tough against two of the best teams in the country. In the loss to Syracuse, St John’s outscored the Orange by seven in the second half, only to lose by five. Villanova, on the other hand, played well early against Syracuse, but got outscored by 12 in the second half to lose by 16.

Don't let D'Angelo Harrison beat you single-handedly

D'Angelo Harrison is the best player on Steve Lavin's team. He can score in a plethora of ways, but has been somewhat inconsistent game to game. On the season, he is shooting just under 40% from the field. However, he is coming off one of the worst shooting nights of his career against Georgetown. In that 77-60 loss, Harrison shot 1-12 from the field, 0-5 from 3-point range, and didn't record an assist. He just couldn't get anything to fall.

Harrison will shoot, and shoot a lot covered or uncovered. He will make a couple of crazy shots, but Villanova will just need to focus on playing good perimeter defense and make Harrison give up the rock. It will be interesting to see who Jay Wright assigns to defend the play-making Harrison.

James Bell HAS to stay out of foul trouble

The senior out of Orlando, Florida has played just 32 minutes in total over the last 2 games. For the season, Bell is averaging 28 minutes per game, but recent early foul trouble has put him on the bench. It has been tough for him to get going offensively as he hasn’t been able to get in a rhythm. Players are stepping up in his absence, but in the long run it will hurt the Wildcats if their second leading scorer and leading rebounder can't be on the floor.


Villanova will improve to 15-1 with a 77-61 victory over the Red Storm.

Villanova's next game will be home against the likes of Brandon Young and the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday, January 18th.

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