Sunday’s game was in some ways a glorious mess and in others ways a glorious display of Big East basketball. In the grand scheme of things it may be somewhere in the middle as Villanova and St. John’s just played what was easily a classic game and could be one of the Big East game’s of this season as the Red Storm managed to complete an emphatic comeback against the Wildcats for a rather important win by a score of 71-65.
But just how did St. John’s manage to do it? Well reader, we have an elaborate yarn to weave for this rich tapestry of this game so sit back.
Villanova got off to a hot start, taking a 19 point lead in the first half as St. John’s were just plain cold on offense and having trouble getting anything remotely consistent going forward. Shamorie Ponds was having trouble finding his shot, and it looked like it would be an early retirement for the Red Storm as Villanova was producing a well rounded approach on offense to drive their game. Saddiq Bey early on was having a strong game and both Eric Paschall and Phil Booth were putting their early marks on this game as the Wildcats were shooting 43% from the floor and 40% from beyond the arch much better than St. John’s meager 31% from the floor and 10% from beyond the arc. Though a dismal start there were signs of life to come as Justin Simon finished the first half with a cross court three pointer to go along with his first half 12 points and both Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa were having games that showed signs of things to come. Another promising sign was St. John’s managed to force the hand of Villanova into seven turnovers which was two more than the Red Storm’s five in the first half.
Then a reverse of fortune happened as St. John’s back in the fight in the second half. Where Villanova faltered, the Johnnies managed to succeed with extra pressure applied.
The second half could be the LJ Figueroa highlight reel, as he took over the game and gave the Johnnies that extra step they needed to get things going. Over the second half, Figueroa scored 16 of his game leading 22 points to go along with 12 rebounds and four steals.
Everyone on the Johnnies side of the ball stepped up to help complete an impressive run to not only get St. John’s back into the game but also to get them over the hump against the Wildcats. Villanova turned the ball over much more in the second half which led to 14 points scored by St. John’s. While Booth and Paschall managed to get points for the Villanova the rest of the Wildcats roster did cool off and did not have the same effect as they had in the first half.
So far we have looked at team performances, but it was individual play that was the biggest determinant of the outcome in this game. As mentioned LJ Figueroa had a game to remember but he did not do it on his own. Mustapha Heron had an impressive game of 19 points, Justin Simon finished the game with 13 points though foul trouble limited his contributions, and Shamorie Ponds got things together to produce an 11 point game on the day. Marvin Clark II was the only player to foul out this game though both LJ Figueroa and Villanova coach Jay Wright got technical fouls in this game.
On the Wildcat side of things, Joe Cremo lead the way with 14 points, Phil Booth had a 13 point game and both Saddiq Bey and Eric Paschall had 11 point nights on the game.
It was a big win for St. John’s, that gets their season fully back on track and gives their tournament resume a nice boost. For Villanova, the loss does put some cracks in their lead at the top of the conference but they should be alright in the grand scheme of things. It was a memorable night on the floor at Madison Square Garden. Maybe those two will be squaring off again in a short while for something even greater at Madison Square Garden.