Jay Wright recorded his 300th win as Villanova's head coach in a classic, gritty Big East win for his Wildcats over the St. John's Red Storm, 90-72. A late run with under eight minutes to go into the contest gave Villanova the convincing win, rebounding after their first loss of the season to Seton Hall on Saturday.
Darrun Hilliard led the way for Villanova with 21 points, including 17 in the second half. Daniel Ochefu was a force down low, recording his second consecutive double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds to go along with four assist and two blocks. Ryan Archidiacono's steady hand at point guard added eight assists without a turnover.
Despite 25 points from D'Angelo Harrison, St. John's ultimately did not have the depth to compete with Villanova over the course of 40 minutes. Rysheed Jordan shot 0-6 from the field, finishing with the only two meaningful bench points for the Red Storm.
St. John's took a page out of Villanova's book during the first half by executing tenacious defense, switching between man-to-man coverage and a half-court 1-3-1 trapping zone. Sir'Dominic Pointer recorded five blocks in the first half alone, while the rest of the Red Storm guards contributed with three steals. While Pointer took care of the defense, it was Harrison and Phil Green IV who took care of business, connecting on 11-17 shots to combine for 27 on their team's 35 first half points.
Madison Square Garden let out a collective gasp on one of the final plays of the half when Harrison contested a fast-break lay up from Archidiacono and fell hard along the baseline. The Johnnie's star would be diagnosed with a knee contusion at the half and returned for the start of the second half.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats saw a solid contribution from Dylan Ennis in the first half, who struggled against Seton Hall after getting into early foul trouble. Ennis scored eight points in the opening period, and would finished with an impressive 15 points and nine rebounds.
The Wildcats and Red Storm traded buckets to begin the second half until JayVaughn Pinkston fueled an 8-0 run with an and-one to draw Chris Obekpa's third foul. After the Wildcats overpassed on multiple possessions, the Johnnie's capitalized with a run finished off by a dynamic alley-oop lob from Greene to Pointer, forcing a Villanova timeout and giving St. John's a one-point lead.
With just under ten minutes to go, both teams got into a minor scuffle as the game became more chippy and tight. Seven-straight points from Hilliard gave Villanova a 63-56 lead with just over nine minutes left in the contest. The Wildcats registered an 13 point edge off eight consecutive points in the paint from Ochefu. The rest was history, as the balance and depth of Villanova took over in the final five minutes of play.
Ochefu continued to show his dominance in the paint to begin Big East play. As soon as Obekpa left the game due to a leg injury, his counterpart feasted down low both offensively and defensively.
The bench play of Villanova was particularly encouraging. Phil Booth's 11 points led the way off the bench on 5-8 shooting from the field, while Kris Jenkins connected on his two long-range attempts for six points on the night. Josh Hart also added eight points and his usual hustle play off the bench.
The Wildcats will take on DePaul (2-0 in conference play) on Saturday at the Pavillion.