The Villanova Wildcats didn’t seem ready for Saturday’s weather forecast.
The St. John’s Red Storm blitzed Villanova to start, quickly building a double-digit lead, before going on to defeat the ‘Cats, 81-71. It was St. John’s first road win at Villanova in 31 years, and it broke the Wildcats’ four-game winning streak entering the weekend.
St. John’s came in hot in the first half, and the ‘Cats were down 7-0 within the first three minutes. TJ Bamba managed to score Villanova’s first points with a three-pointer, but they remained down 12-3 for the first six minutes.
This trend continued throughout the game, and the Thunderbirds maintained their lead against the ‘Cats for the full 40 minutes of playing time.
“I must give St. John’s a lot of credit, they played their game to perfection,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “I thought they dictated the tempo of the game and how the game was gonna be played. They played to their strengths.”
T.J. Bamba was a bright spot, leading the way with 23 points, while teammates Eric Dixon and Mark Armstrong also finished in double figures and chipped in 14 points apiece, but the ‘Cats appeared consistently uncoordinated and downright sloppy.
St. John’s exploited the holes and miscues in Villanova’s defense, and the Wildcats just seemed to be a step behind on both ends of the court.
St. John’s program is known for attacking the basket and for having an extremely aggressive play on both ends of the court, which is exactly what ‘Nova Nation saw today. Plus, every time the ‘Cats scored or got into a rhythm, St. John’s answered with shots of their own, which never allowed the ‘Cats to catch up, nor take the lead.
The Red Storm led from start to finish in the wire-to-wire win.
Joel Soriano led the Red Storm with 20 points and eight rebounds, most of which were slam dunks and assists from rebounds. Daniss Jenkins and Brady Dunlap followed closely behind him, each scoring an additional 18 and 15 points, respectively.
“I think it’s just a long season,” Neptune said of the loss. “I think, defensively, those guys haven’t been back. You know, you go through a year and sometimes you make shots, sometimes you miss shots.”
The team was also asked how Justin Moore’s absence affected the game, and TJ Bamba chimed in, stating, “I feel like Justin’s really mature. So, if anything, that maturity, in a game like this, going up against St. John’s, would help with common sense. Our defense, early on, couldn’t get more stops because we don’t have a creative player, so he would have helped with that.”
By the end of the first half, the ‘Cats did manage to somewhat narrow the scoring gap, with the score being 34-28.
However, within the first five minutes of the second half, the Red Storm re-asserted themselves and pulled away, while the Wildcats struggled to gain anymore traction. St. John’s defense remained scrappy, while the ‘Cats were overwhelmed by the combination of a strong, aggressive offense, rebounding effort and defense by St. John’s.
St. John’s longest run was 10-0, and they managed to lead by as high as 17 points midway through the end. The ‘Cats appeared to only step it up in the last few minutes and make the margin more respectable.
The Wildcats’ struggled from beyond the arc, shooting just 6-of-28 (21.4%) from deep.
This is the first game Villanova has lost against St. John’s since 1993. It will look to bounce back in a rematch with the DePaul Blue Demons this Friday, January 12, at 8:30 P.M. EST.