Villanova got off to an uninspired start, but a big first half burst was enough to keep distance between themselves and St. John’s.
With the win, the ‘Cats keep pace and also keep pressure on Providence in the race for the Big East regular season crown.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
‘Cats Roll When Daniels Does
Caleb Daniels came up huge against St. John’s, scoring 15 points knocking down three 3-pointers. He also led the ‘Cats with a rating of +19.
The ‘Cats are now 7-1 this season when Daniels hits double figures in scoring. This includes winning the last seven.
When Daniels is able to contribute like this it gives ‘Nova some legitimate scoring depth. Villanova was able to score 73, despite not executing well to start and cooling off towards the end as the Red Storm attempted to rally late. They did hit their free throws and pouring in 11 3-pointers. The production from Daniels was a key reason why Villanova was able to fight through some sloppiness.
It’s not just Daniels hitting shots himself that adds to Nova’s offense, it’s the spacing he provides for Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore. The ‘Cats are at their best on offense when these three share the court.
Daniels is up to almost exactly 40% from deep this season and that kind of threat is much needed this season. Jermaine Samuels and Branon Slater do a lot of things well and help the ‘Cats win in many ways, but the offense is too congested when they share the floor for an extended amount of time.
We know Gillespie and Moore are Villanova’s two best players and I’m in favor of giving them as much space as possible to operate with plus Daniels is still able to finish at the rim when he’s off ball.
After Daniels having the best plus/minus for the ‘Cats, Jordan Longino was second at +12 in 19 minutes played which is the second highest total for the freshman.
He made an instant impact when he hit a spot up 3-pointer right after checking into the game. He hit another three and a couple free throws for a career high of six points.
His ball handling was on display when he was able to cross over almost into the lane and kick it to Chris Arcidiacono that ended up leading to a 3-pointer from Collin Gillespie. It was on display again when he was isolated at the top of the key and beat his man all the way to the rim where he passed out to Gillespie which led to Brandon Slater getting to the free throw line.
The ‘Cats win over St. John’s marked the first time since the first week of December that Longino played double digit minutes in consecutive games.
It’s been the consistent play of Longino’s defense that has earned Jay Wright’s trust for playing time. The ‘Cats would benefit greatly though from Longino being a playmaker from time to time.
The Eric Dixon hype train is loaded and as it should be. This is a recycled takeaway but c’mon, 15 & 7 in 17 minutes?
Dixon is averaging 12 points and 7.5 rebounds in his last six games on 62% shooting. Even in limited minutes, St. John’s felt the brunt of Dixon’s versatility.
He’s got enough size to bang on the block and just enough foot speed to be a threat in the face up game. Since the blowout loss to Creighton, I’ve seen him be more deliberate and patient. A lot of Nova Nation hoped this would come with more experience.
Dixon hit a 3-pointer against St. John’s and shoots 56% from deep but with very few attempted. This isn’t part of his game, but it could be. I don’t know if we’ll ever fully see it while he’s at Nova, but he has the skill to be a consistent threat from deep.
As Eric Dixon keeps improving, we don’t know the ceiling of Nova’s offense, but it is much higher without always relying on the backcourt to make plays for others while also being the leading scorers.