On Monday, the St. John’s Red Storm broke into the weekly rankings for the first time this season. Starting the week off with a brand new ranking of 24th in the nation, the Red Storm hit the court Tuesday night against the Villanova Wildcats, who played host to the Johnnies at Finneran Pavilion.
Naturally, St. John’s were coming into this one with the hopes of keeping up their winning ways, this after a weekend overtime win over the Georgetown Hoyas in Washington D.C., The Wildcats, meanwhile, were looking to keep their three-game win streak alive with two of those wins coming from the opening rounds of conference play.
At the end of 40 minutes, it would be Villanova triumphing once again, as the Wildcats came back to down St. John’s, 76-71.
If you were a neutral watcher of this game, it was a great watch, especially in the second half. If you were a biased watcher though, it was either a tough watch from a Red Storm perspective, or was a once again a great watch for the Wildcats perspective.
What may be the case is that St. John’s is limited, and limited may not even be the best word to describe their bench usage. This may have come back to haunt them in the end. The Johnnies only rotated in two players into the game, with Bryan Trimble Jr. and Sedee Keita being called off the bench, the latter of which only played five minutes. They scored a grand total of a combined five points, and overall did not impact much of the game. Especially compared to St. John’s starters, who all had solid nights.
The Red Storm starters got off to a strong start against Villanova ,but down the stretch had trouble finding their shot or took rushed shots. The first half saw St. John’s in their pomp, putting on a show with the three ball and the second half saw them searching for that shot. Still though, St. John’s boasted a solid trio, with Shamorie Ponds leading the way with 23 points.
LJ Figueroa had a solid 14-point outing to go along with a team-high seven rebounds. Justin Simon posted a near double-double night of 13 points and nine assists. Normally Ponds finds himself on the top of the assists chart, but Simon had the feel and vision tonight in directing ball movement. The one big off night though was Mustapha Heron, as he collected just eight points and had a limited role in the second half due to foul trouble.
Where St. John’s wilted, Villanova thrived as the Wildcats took to task the Johnnies with some stellar play by veterans Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. Combined, they scored 48 of Villanova’s 76 points against the Red Storm. Individually, Booth had 23 while Paschall had 25. Another great stat for this duo is that the rest of Villanova’s lineup tonight scored a combined 28 points, just three points more than Paschall’s total and five points more than Booth’s.
In short, if it were not for both players getting hot, then this might have been a completely different game for Villanova. Still, it is incredible to watch these two shift gears to take over a game. Paschall also led the way with eight rebounds as well.
Villanova also fared much better in the second half, outscoring St. John’s 42-32 over the 20 minutes of play. They also shot better too with a 48 percent shooting from the floor compared to 42 percent in the first half.
One final note Booth and Paschall is that each player had their moments in the sun with Paschall doing most of his damage in the first half 17 points by halftime. Booth took over from there with 15 points in the second half. In a way, they were sort of like a tag team for Villanova.
St. John’s now heads home to host the DePaul Blue Demons, while Villanova is off to Omaha to take on the Creighton Bluejays. What was once shaping up to be a down year for the Wildcats is now starting to look like business as usual. Villanova now has three wins in conference play, and St. John’s may need to go to the drawing board.
Funny how things go.