Career High From Harrison Not Enough as St. John’s Falls to Villanova

Career High From Harrison Not Enough as St. John’s Falls to Villanova

Torch Photo/Terence Cullen

On paper, the St. John’s men’s basketball team’s matchup with Villanova was a battle between two sub-.500 Big East teams with little to play for.

On the court, however, it didn’t turn out that way.

The two young teams – with no seniors on the court at all – staged a back-and-forth overtime affair that wasn’t decided until the final buzzer, with Villanova (10-10, 3-5) prevailing 79-76 in front of a raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden.

“This is what the Big East is about,” said Villanova guard Maalik Wayns. “It’s great basketball, great coaches, great players, great arenas. It’s fun to play in. “

It was especially fun for Wayns, who torched the Red Storm (8-11, 2-6), scoring 28 points while shooting 10-of-18 from the field. It was the third straight game in which the junior scored at least 25 points.

But he was nearly matched shot-for-shot on the other end by freshman guard D’Angelo Harrison. Harrison hit two three-pointers in the game’s opening minute en route to a career-high 28 points before fouling out with 1:55 left in overtime.

“That was our key to the game, don’t let him get threes in transition,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “In this league, when you let a player like that get his first two threes off like that, you know you’re going to have to deal with him the rest of the night, because now he’s got it going.”

All the momentum seemed to be with Villanova when Harrison left the floor with his fourth foul with 8:56 left and St. John’s leading, 52-50. The last time the Johnnies were in the Garden, on Jan. 14 against Georgetown, they collapsed down the stretch when freshman forward Moe Harkless, who had 21 points in that game, fouled out with five minutes left.

But this time, without their leading scorer on the floor, the Johnnies ripped off an 8-1 run, keyed by freshman guard Phil Greene, to extend the lead to nine.

Villanova responded, however, outscoring St. John’s 16-7 over the game’s final six minutes to send it into overtime with the teams tied at 67. In the extra period, Villanova went on a 9-2 run in the first three minutes to get out to a 76-69 lead. During that period, the Red Storm missed three out of four free throws. For the game, they shot just 14-of-25 from the charity stripe.

“We left the game on the free-throw line. It was that simple,” assistant coach Mike Dunlap said.

“You can talk about the rebounds [St. John’s was outrebounded 52-36] and you can talk about turnovers [They had 21],” he added. “But the bottom line is free throws are easy baskets and when you miss 11 of those it’s real simple – something you have to do better.”

Despite their problems from the line, the Johnnies had a chance to tie the game, down three with the ball with 22.3 seconds left. But Greene lost control of the ball, nearly turning it over. He only just managed to pass it off to freshman forward Sir’Dom Pointer after a scramble. Pointer missed the three and Villanova got the rebound to end it.

“Coach drew up a good play,” Greene said. “We didn’t come out and execute it right, but we still came out and had a good look to tie the game. Things didn’t go how we planned, but we still had a good shot.”

The loss was St. John’s fourth straigh. They’ll try to get back in the win column against West Virginia at the Garden on Jan. 25.

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