Despite the final score, Villanova looked extremely sloppy in their 15 point win over St. John's on Sunday. The Wildcats shot only 35.6 percent from the field, while turning the ball over 20 times. These early struggles had Villanova up by only 1 at the half, before they eventually pulled away from the inexperienced St. John's squad in the final twenty minutes.
Here are three things we learned in this game:
1. Daniel Ochefu may be Villanova's most important player: Villanova was without their senior big man on against St. John's, and their performance suffered greatly because of that. With no strong inside presence, the Wildcats' offense lacked continuity in the half court. Villanova was not hitting their outside shots early, shooting 18 percent from 3-point range in the first half. This is where Ochefu's ability to score in the paint was missed, as Villanova was not able to get the ball inside for easy scores early in the game. Ochefu should return soon, but his absence today showed how important he is to this team's long term prospects.
2. St. John's is showing signs of life: The Red Storm have yet to win a BIG EAST game in Chris Mullin's first season, but this young squad is starting to give some glimmers of hope for the future of the program. St. John's stuck with the BIG EAST's top team for the first twenty minutes of this contest, and they played strong half court defense throughout the game by holding Villanova to 35 percent shooting. Eventually, turnovers caught up with St. John's, as their 12 second half turnovers allowed Villanova to build a comfortable 15-point lead.
3. Josh Hart is on fire: Last year's BIG EAST 6th Man of the Year has taken his game to another level in 2016. Hart's 16 points and 11 rebounds were good for his fifth double-double of league play, and sixth of the season. The junior has reached double figures in scoring in each of Villanova's 21 games this season, but his most glaring improvement this year may be with his assertiveness. Hart has been fearless on offense all year, knowing when his team needs him to take over. With Ryan Arcidiacono struggling in this one, the Wildcat's needed Hart to step up big time, which he of course did. Hart provided the turning point in this game, as his steal and dish to a fast-breaking Mikal Bridges towards the end of the first half ignited Villanova to go on a 50-32 run in the final 23 minutes of the game.