Villanova defeated St. John’s, 81-58, Tuesday night in its first win against the Red Storm this season. The ‘Cats got off to a big lead in the first half, which set them up well for the win. Though NCAA tournament hopes were slim for St. John’s, Villanova came to diminish them.
Let’s see what the ‘Cats did well Tuesday night, and what that means for the rest of the season.
Ability to bounce back
The ‘Cats had something to prove Tuesday night, as this was their rematch game against St. John’s. Villanova fell to them 70-59 on February 3rd. That was a big loss for the ‘Cats, so it was essential that they show they can learn from their mistakes.
Villanova came out hot early and entered the second half with a 17-point lead. Collin Gillespie was already scoring in the double figures within the first eight minutes of the game. Clearly, Villanova was determined to turn things around after a disastrous outing the first time around.
Villanova was ready for the stronger St. John’s players like Julian Champangie, the top scorer in the Big East. Champagnie scored 16 points with seven rebounds, but shot only 5-of-18 overall. Also, despite 16 turnovers for the ‘Cats, St. John’s was unable to capitalize on them, as Villanova continued to shut it down. St. John’s thrives on fastbreaks, and with only scoring six points on those tonight, there were going to be no easy baskets this time.
The ‘Cats showed that they can step up and defeat a team that frankly, embarrassed them three weeks ago. After a great defensive improvement against UConn and now a wire-to-wire win over St. John’s, this should create good momentum for the rest of the season.
Contribution from the whole team
Villanova’s issue with this season has been depending on a couple of players to score big every game. We got to see Bryan Antoine in his third showing, where he had a big steal in the first half and scored his first points of the season. According to head coach Jay Wright, Antoine has not really had the opportunity to even practice this season because of his injuries and limited offseason.
Brandon Slater also stepped up tonight with aggressive offense had a couple of big dunks, and drew a great offensive foul late in the first to take the momentum for the ‘Cats. He continued to provide energy and draw charges even when the game was well under control.
Typically, a win for the ‘Cats has been dependent on whether Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl are having good games. While they played well Tuesday night (14 points for Gillespie and 12 points for Robinson-Earl), they did not have to carry the weight of the whole game. The team was able to play well even with Gillespie sitting with two fouls late in the first half.
Tuesday proved to be another big showing from Jermaine Samuels, who was just shy of a double-double, with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Caleb Daniels proved once again to be an integral player for ‘Nova. The redshirt sophomore contributed 17 points.
Everyone got in on the action, and we even got to see Trey Patterson make his collegiate debut.
What comes next
This was a big conference win for the ‘Cats to rebound from an earlier loss and continue their hunt for a high-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
If Antoine can continue to get minutes, it will be great for Villanova to have another good guard on the bench. Also, Slater needs to keep bringing the energy, because when he’s on the court, we can see the rest of the team rallying around him. The ‘Cats are going to need depth to find success in March.
Villanova now needs to look to secure a win over Creighton next week and close out the regular season strong. If the ‘Cats can continue to work together and develop a deep bench, combined with steady improvement all around, things are looking good for them come March.