St John's Downs Careless 'Cats, 70-59

Caleb Daniels struggles to get through strong St John's defense.

Villanova suffered their first loss in conference play and second of the season in their 59-70 defeat to St. John’s. This game marked the 100th head-to-head matchup between the schools, Villanova edging the series overall but more dominant in recent times. Before this season, St. John’s had beaten Villanova only three times in their last 25 games.

The Wildcats’ performance was simply uncharacteristic, and was a far cry from their expected performance level under Jay Wright. The ‘Cats entered the game averaging 8.3 turnovers per game, but gave the ball up 17 times against St. John’s. Villanova is averaging a Big East-leading 37.5% on three-pointers this season, but could only get eight of their 30 attempts to drop (26.7%) against St. John’s.

Tulane-transfer Caleb Daniels led the ‘Cats in scoring with 16. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl chipped in 14 points to go along with a season-high 17 rebounds. Posh Alexander scored 16 and assisted for six more buckets for the Red Storm.

Villanova played well out of the gates. The Wildcats took a comfortable 7-0 lead after the first three minutes. The ‘Cats found open shots and secured numerous second-chance opportunities off the back of 10 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes. As St. John’s settled into the game, their defense began to bother the Villanova offense. After notching a 14-6 lead early in the first, Villanova gave up a 10-0 run to go down 23-19. The ‘Cats responded with back-to-back threes to regain the lead, but only for a moment as the Red Storm carved out a 30-27 halftime lead. Collin Gillespie had a night to forget, shooting 0-8 from deep in the game including 0-5 in the first half. He could not find a rhythm while St. John’s could not miss.

After halftime, Villanova went scoreless on their first seven possessions including a turnover following a timeout. The Wildcat’s sloppiness gave way to a 10-2 run for St. John’s, extending the ‘Cats deficit to 11. The turnovers and missed shots continued for Villanova in the second half. St. John’s cooled off to an extent, but the Wildcats still found themselves down 17 late in the second half. Wright’s team clawed back to within single digits, but a dagger three from Julian Champagnie ended any hopes of a late comeback.

Villanova rarely ends a game with this many turnovers or such a low shooting percentage; Gillespie in particular rarely finishes a game without a single three. St. John’s hot shooting and Villanova’s lack of execution combined to hand the ‘Cats their second loss of the season.

Villanova returns to Big East action on Sunday, February 7 at 2:30 against Georgetown.