Villanova faced St. John’s for the second time this season and took little shame in flexing their home-court advantage. Playing up in the Wells Fargo Center, ‘Nova soundly defeated the Johnnies 92-79.
The younger Wildcats started and stole the show early on. Sophomore Mikal Bridges opened scoring with a booming 3, and continued fronting for ‘Nova’s shooting efforts at the game’s onset. Bridges held eight of Villanova’s 12 points in the first eight minutes of the game, all the while St. John’s went 0-for-10. In fact, the Red Storm failed get points on the board until the 12:35 mark.
Redshirt freshman Donte DiVincenzo unquestionably gave tonight’s top game-winning performance. DiVincenzo unleashed shooting fury against the Red Storm, scoring a career-high of 20 points. Coming off the bench, he quickly nabbed seven points in one minute and, simply put, presented unflinching drive for the remainder of the game. Interestingly, his last career high (19 points) was also against St. John’s.
To their credit, St. John’s was equally unwavering in their fight. Led by Marcus LoVett’s 23 points, the Red Storm continually pushed through double-digit deficits to bring the Wildcats’ lead down to single digits.
However, the Johnnies struggled immensely with foul trouble. Freshman Shamorie Ponds, the new stalwart of St. John’s shooting, quickly amassed fouls and was benched for large pockets of the game. Ponds’ first field goal did not even occur until near the second half’s six-minute mark. Ponds joined junior Bashir Ahmed to put up 15 points, but ultimately Ahmed found himself fouled out of the game.
While St. John’s struggled with fouls, Villanova was taunted by sloppy turnovers. A season-high of 23 turnovers left the Wildcats increasingly vulnerable to St. John’s budding offensive attack. The Johnnies were able to profit off ‘Nova’s transition issues, and went on a 14-0 run in the second half’s final minutes.
Notably, senior Kris Jenkins did not start the game. Coach Jay Wright, citing increased pressure that Jenkins places on himself, hoped that coming off the bench would help ease Jenkins’ muddled play from the past few games. Shaking off murmurs of a slump, Jenkins set off his famed 3-pointers and nailed 15 points tonight.
Overall, St. John’s actually edged out the Villanova beyond the arc, making 38.5 percent of 3-point FGs compared to ‘Nova’s 36 percent. The Wildcats, however, managed to maintain 51.8 percent of FGs in contrast to the Red Storm’s 43.3 FG percentage. ‘Nova also solidly out-rebounded the Johnnies 40 to 26.
Villanova moves on to play Georgetown on Tuesday at the Pavilion, and St. John’s meets Seton Hall next Saturday at Madison Square Garden.