Saddiq Bey scored a game high 23 points as the Villanova Wildcats led from start to finish in a win over the St. John’s Red Storm. While the Wildcats led throughout, sloppy play on both ends kept the Johnnies in it throughout. The Wildcats went on a number of scoring droughts, and had 13 turnovers for the game. But ultimately it was their rebounding (+15) and three point shooting (11 made 3’s) that gave them the edge to come away with the win.
Saddiq Bey was the star of the game, putting up 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Freshman Justin Moore came up big in this one with a stat line of 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist.
Villanova jumped out to a quick lead in the first half before St. John’s started to apply a full court press that knocked the Wildcats out of their rhythm. The press would continue to cause turnovers throughout the game, allowing the Red Storm to come back and trail by just two points at the half.
At Halftime, the school honored one of their All-Time greats as Kyle Lowry had his jersey retired. He and his sons were on the court to accept the honor, and former teammates Randy Foye and Allan Ray were also in attendance to share the special moment.
The second half was a back and forth of runs for both teams. Every time Villanova would get some breathing room, St. John’s would find a way to create a turnover or make a big shot to get them right back in it. Still, Villanova’s outside shooting and defense would prove to be just too much for the Johnnies. The Wildcats would close out the final minutes with clutch shooting to win their fifth straight and remain in the drivers seat for another Big East Regular Season Title.
The festivities started before tip-off with a ceremony honoring senior Tim Saunders and the senior student managers. Each was given a framed Nova jersey with their names and were accompanied on the court by their parents as well as Jay and Patty Wright.
The celebrating didn’t let up after tip-off, as Saddiq Bey came out and hit two early threes to establish an early lead for the ‘Cats. Justin Moore also connected from deep before Bey hit a mid range jumper to put Villanova up 11-2 just three minutes into the game. St. John’s did their best to push back, but Villanova was controlling the tempo, the paint, and just about every aspect of the game early on. Another Justin Moore three gave Villanova a 14-4 lead heading into the first TV timeout with 15:17 remaining in the first half.
St. John’s started pressuring the inbounds, which disrupted the Wildcats offense and allowed the Red Storm to start closing the gap. Still, Villanova was able to maintain their lead as St. John’s really couldn’t find a rhythm on offense. By the next TV Timeout at 11:45, the Wildcats were still comfortably in the lead at 18-10.
It seemed every time St. John’s got a spark, the Wildcats would answer. When the Johnnies got a steal and run-away dunk, Saddiq Bey answered with a three. Still, Villanova had cooled down from their hot start, and the Red Storm were starting to find their way into the paint for buckets. The Wildcats weren’t helping their cause with untimely turnovers either totaling five already in the first half. At the Under 8 timeout, the Villanova lead was down to just five, 21-16.
The first half continued to be the Saddiq Bey and Justin Moore show. The duo combined for 20 of the Wildcats first 24 points. But even with their outpouring of points, St. Johns kept it a five point game with a little more than five minutes left in the first half. Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels would eventually get in on the scoring to start a Nova run, and Cole Swider hit a three from the corner to push the Villanova lead back up to double digits at 33-22 with 3:12 remaining in the half.
Despite being down though, St. John’s ratcheted the pressure back up, causing multiple turnovers that led to easy buckets on the other end. In the final minute St. Johns had cut the lead down to just one possession. In the final seconds, St. John’s was able to hit a bucket before the buzzer to make it just a two point game, 36-34.
In the second half the Wildcats were able to regain some control from the surging Red Storm. Saddiq Bey led the scoring effort again out the gate, and by the first media time out Villanova had a seven point lead. But no matter what the Wildcats did scoring the ball, turnovers and transition baskets were keeping St. Johns in the game. The only time Villanova would successfully pull away was with three point shooting. Even then, it was still an eight point game with 10:32 remaining as Nova went to another TV timeout leading 51-43.
St. John’s would go on an 8-3 run to cut the lead back down to a single possession before Collin Gillespie hit a pull up mid range shot to give the Wildcats a little more breathing room. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl hit six consecutive free throws to extend Nova’s lead back up to nine with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
In the final minutes, Justin Moore caught fire from deep to all but seal the game for the Wildcats. Their lead was pushed back up to double digits, and it was all but over on this special night for so many at the Finn.