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‘Cats Claw Back Against #24 St. John’s 76-71

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Villanova pulls it out after a slow start

St John’s v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Villanova Wildcats snuck past the #24 St. John’s Red Storm 76-71 on Tuesday night at the Finneran Pavilion. The Wildcats improved to 12-4 (3-0) while the Johnnies dropped to (a still impressive) 14-2 (2-2).

It appeared the writing was on the wall early as the Wildcats (yet again) got off to a rough start, with the Johnnies jumping out to a 14-2 lead early in the first half. The Red Storm was letting it rain from Jamaica, hitting nine threes in the first half.

With about ten minutes left in the first half, ‘Nova cut the lead to four after two quick buckets by Jahvon Quinerly and Phil Booth. The momentum turned, for a point, when Jahvon Quinerly, running downhill, took Shamorie Ponds to the rim. As the ball began to roll off the rim, Jermaine Samuels tipped it in for the bucket forcing Chris Mullin to call a timeout as the lead was trimmed to two.

St John’s v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

However, as the first half wound down, some sloppy ‘Nova play and lax defense led to a Johnnies’ surge and their lead ballooned to 10 at the under-2. With just under 30 seconds left, Villanova, coming out of a timeout, failed to score before halftime and went into the break down five.

The second half started slow for Villanova, with Saddiq Bey replacing Cosby-Roundtree coming out of the locker room. St. John’s continued to toy with Villanova on the defensive end, targeting one on one match-ups with Gillespie and Cremo in the lane as the lead grew to 11.

At about the 15 minute mark, Saddiq Bey got in on the action, draining a corner three followed by a nifty reverse off a Booth assist. After a Shamorie Ponds miss on the other end, an amped Phil Booth nailed a deep three to force a Johnnies’ timeout as the lead was cut to 3.

With just over two minutes left in the game, Phil Booth hit two straight threes to give the ‘Cats their first meaningful lead of the game. Jermaine Samuels, providing some solid effort off the bench, hit four of six foul shots to stretch the lead to five with just 43 seconds left. Saddiq Bay iced the game with two foul shots of his own and Villanova escaped with the 76-71 win.

St John’s v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Eric Paschall and Phil Booth combined for 48 points and played exactly the type of game we hoped to consistently see this year from both of them. Paschall finished with 25 on 8-14 shooting (3-5 from deep) with 8 rebounds and just one turnover. Booth, playing like a mad man in the second half, finished with 23 points on 8-16 shooting including 6-11 (?!) from downtown, 7 rebounds, and just two turnovers. They played smart, they played like seniors, and they won the game for the ‘Cats.

However, this game will do nothing to assuage the concerns about Jay’s starting line-up choices. It appears obvious that, at this point in time, a starting line-up featuring both Collin Gillespie and Joe Cremo is a defensive nightmare. Further, if neither are knocking down threes (especially Cremo), they severely handcuff the offense. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree continues to struggle and, with opposing teams able to play off him, an already struggling ‘Nova offense finds itself playing 4 on 5.

As the Big East schedule rolls on, Villanova is playing with fire starting each game down by twelve. While there is something to say for a team that continues to claw back in games, it’s less impressive when the deficits continue to be of its own doing.

More to come after the postgame press conference.

#FreeJelly

Box Score