Villanova put on a show in Madison Square Garden Tuesday, ruthlessly taking down St. John’s 79-59. The victory takes the Wildcats’ winning streak to seven while adding yet another all-important Big East road win to Villanova’s resume.
The opening minutes of the first half saw the Wildcats get out to a slow start, which at this point is (unfortunately) par for the course. St. John’s came out of the gates with energy, getting a dunk, corner three, and block all in a short sequence to get the crowd going. Applying pressure and running off of misses, the Johnnies set the tempo early and rolled to a quick lead.
The Wildcats got back into the game by dominating the glass and generating second chance points off of misses. During their cold spell, freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl kept numerous plays alive on the offensive end, mixing it up with the St. John’s bigs. Saddiq Bey got the Villanova offense going in earnest, canning a three and getting to the rim on back to back plays to draw Villanova level at 15.
From there, Villanova would dominate the rest of the half, closing on a 7-0 run to take their lead to 39-26. Bey continued to be the primary engine throughout the first half, scoring 12, while Justin Moore chipped in 9 points. The Cats sped up the Johnnies successfully and forced numerous turnovers and some wild misses.
The second half started much like the first, with St. John’s coming out and outworking the Wildcats. Poor execution against the press and some missed corner threes helped St. John’s dictate the goings and cut the lead to single digits. Villanova would regain control and stretch the lead back to double digits at the under-12 timeout via the three point shot.
Collin Gillespie controlled the goings in the second half, scoring 13 while marshaling the VU offense. Gillespie got his three point shot going early in the half, hitting three before the second media timeout. From there, Gillespie had his defenders on skates, getting to the rim or to his step back jumper with ease.
Villanova would extend its lead to 21 moving into the under-eight timeout following a Jeremiah Robinson-Earl block-rebound and a Bey 18-footer. Villanova’s freshman forward continued to dominate the glass in the second half, ending the game with a game-high 14 rebounds en route to another double-double.
From there on out Villanova had total control of the game. Bey and Gillespie continued to dominate on the offensive end, getting buckets but also finding teammates for easy looks. Wright found extra minutes all game for freshman Bryan Antoine, and while he struggled, he notched a valuable seven minutes.
The Wildcats would eventually take the win 79-59. Saddiq Bey led Villanova with 24, while Collin Gillespie filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, 6 assists, and 13 rebounds. The freshman duo of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore each got into double figures with 13 and 11, respectively. Rasheem Dunn would lead St. John’s with 24 points on 10-16 shooting.
Villanova ended up hitting 12 threes, its second highest tally thus far in Big East play. Saddiq Bey led the team with five, while Gillespie added three.
When asked about the open looks the team generated from three, Coach Jay Wright explained that the team was hoping to strike a balance with the long ball. “If we broke pressure we were looking for [the three],” Wright told reporters. “Early in the game we took some quick ones and then they were getting those misses and they were going. There’s a balance there. When we had an older team we knew how to attack and when to pull out. Collin’s getting better now as a cerebral point guard, but we definitely were looking for threes but didn’t want to get caught up going up and down with them.”
The win improves Villanova to 17-3 and 7-1 in the Big East. Villanova returns to action on Saturday where they play Creighton at home at the Wells Fargo Center. Coach Wright noted that the Wildcats were hopeful to get Jermaine Samuels back for the game.