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Villanova’s fast start sets tone in 81-58 win over St. John’s

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NCAA Basketball: Villanova at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

After a devastating loss on Feb. 3, The No. 8 Wildcats got their revenge Tuesday night, defeating St. John’s 81-58 . Villanova shot 48% from the floor and made 11 three pointers.

Villanova came out on a mission, shooting 50% from the field and 43% from three in the first half. The Wildcats’ fast start set the tone for the rest of the game, and kept St. John’s playing catch-up throughout. Caleb Daniels led the team with 17 points and was 4-of-6 three point shooting.

“We just wanted to come out and just set the tone early, and just follow that and ride that momentum for the rest of the night,” Daniels said.

In their first matchup, the Red Storm held Collin Gillespie to just 4 points with constant defensive pressure and harassment by freshman Posh Alexander.

The St. John’s defense struggled to contain Gillespie this time, and he reached double-digit scoring by halftime. He finished with 14 points, and was 2-of-3 from three-point land.

“[Gillespie came] back with great confidence and not trying to do it all on his own, just getting other people’s shots, making the right plays,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “That’s what’s amazing about him and a sign of a great leader.”

Julian Champagnie, who led St. John’s to victory on Feb. 3, was scoreless for most of the first half. Champagnie finished with 16 points, most of which came after the game was out of hand. Isaiah Moore added 10 points for the Red Storm.

The Wildcats’ aggressive defense in the paint forced the Johnnies to settle for three-point shots. The Red Storm shot just 3-of-23 from downtown and had trouble handling the ball with 16 turnovers.

The Wildcats dominated in the low post. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl added 12 points and six rebounds, while Jermaine Samuels added 14 points and nine rebounds.

Brandon Slater also contributed on both ends of the floor with six points and two steals. He provided a defensive spark off the bench, taking multiple charges in the paint. Additionally, Bryan Antoine made his third appearance of the season after recovering from a shoulder injury.

“They gave us some great spark there in the first half, and you know, that’s what you really wanna see as a coach,” Wright said. “You want to see these guys grow, that’s why you coach college.”

Villanova is now 15-3 overall and 10-2 in the Big East. Their next game is on Sunday against Butler.