Manhattan, NY – The St John Red Storm hosted the Villanova Wildcats Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden looking for their third straight victory. St John’s, down 20 (66-46) with 4:27 minutes left in the second half went on a 23-6 run to cut the lead to three points (72-69). Tareq Coburn would miss a potential game tying 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds left, and clutch free throws from Villanova would secure a 75-69 win. St Johns was without starting point guard Posh Alexander due to an ankle injury. Julian Champagnie had a rough game in 31 minutes of action. He shot 4-of-15 (26.6%) including 2-of-7 (29%) from behind the arc,, ending with 12 points. He struggled with his shot, missing a couple of good looks from beyond the arc, and even missing a wide open lay up in semi transition. He wasn’t very aggressive or engaged all night.
St John’s shot poorly all night at 24-of-75 (32%) with 9-of-33 (27%) from deep. Defense, toughness, and the great play of Aaron Wheeler all game is what kept St John’s in the game until the very end. Wheeler played 34 minutes, scoring 31 points on 11-of-17 (65%), 6-of-10 (60%) from deep, and 3-of-3 from the line. Wheeler carried the offensive load for his team from the opening tip to the final buzzer. HIs shot was aggressive all night, taking advantage of the defense all over the court. He got to his spots and was patient finishing around the rim. Wheeler also showed promise on the defensive end, coming up with two blocks and being very active around the rim. He had the ultimate green light tonight as he seemed to be the only member on the team to get anything to fall. Even with the game ending in a loss for St John’s, Wheeler outplayed everyone on both ends of the floor. After having a slow start to the season, Wheeler has now scored in double figures the past 10 of 11 games and has raised his scoring to 9.6 on the season.
Villanova’s Eric Dixon played 26 minutes and was an efficient 7-of-9 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds to go along with his three assists, two blocks and a steal. Dixon was finishing the defensive plays for his team and earning his team second chances by fighting for the board. Dixon, coming off his season high with 24 points against UConn, continued his high scoring in the post using his soft touch for the left-handed jump hook. He wasn’t rushed when he got the ball down low and knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go before he made his dribbles. Dixon was always under control and never frantic. He played within the offense and never took a selfish or contested shot. Hopefully we can continue to see this offensive surge from him. The last nine games he has been able to score in double figures, and bring his scoring average to 10 points on the season.
Villanova had contributions all around, with five out of the nine players who played scoring double digits. They shot 25-of-54 (46.3%) but struggled from the three point line (5-21) They made the most of their trips to the line, cashing in on 20-of-28 (71%) compared to St John’s 12-of-16. Villanova won the rebounding battle 45-39, but had trouble securing the ball with 16 turnovers, which was a key contributor to St John’s making their big run in the closing minutes. Villanova committed 16 turnovers and had only nine assists.
St John’s (13-10, 5-7) will look to bounce back at Sunday’s match up at MSG when the UConn Huskies (16-6, 7-4) come into town. Villanova (18-6, 11-3) will return home to host Seton Hall (14-7, 5-6) Saturday afternoon in search of their third straight win.