After jumping out to a 19-point lead early in the game, the Villanova Wildcats shot just 20.8% from the field in the second half, as St. John’s stormed back for a, 71-65, victory at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Sophomore LJ Figueroa scored 16 in the second half on his way to a 22-point outburst that would lead the Red Storm to their first victory over Villanova at the Garden since 2002.
Junior Mustapha Heron pitched in 19 points of his own on a night when St. John’s star, Shamorie Ponds was held to just 11 points on 2-14 shooting from the field.
An Eric Paschall three with 8:50 remaining in the first half put Villanova in front, 29-10, in a game that looked to have the makings of a rout. From this point forward, however, St. John’s would dominate on both ends of the floor, ending the first half with a buzzer-beating three-quarter court heave by junior Justin Simon to make the score, 37-26, at the intermission.
The second half saw the Johnnies slowly chip away at the deficit, eventually going in front with 7:28 to go on one of Figueroa’s three second half triples.
The game remained close for the next several minutes, but two free throws by Heron with 1:24 remaining put the Red Storm up by four, a margin the Wildcats were unable to overcome.
After shooting just 7-13 from the foul line in the opening half, St. John’s made 18-20 from the charity stripe in the second half, including a perfect 10-10 in the game’s final minute to help seal the game.
For the ‘Cats, Paschall and Phil Booth each shot just 2-11 from the field, and committed eight turnovers between them. Graduate transfer, Joe Cremo, was one of the few bright spots for ‘Nova, as he knocked down four three-pointers and recorded a season-high 14 points.
Villanova (20-6, 11-2) now sits just a half-game ahead of Marquette in the Big East standings. The team will return to action on Wednesday in Washington D.C. when they face the Georgetown Hoyas at 6:30 p.m.