Johnnies roughed up in city of brotherly love

The St. John’s men’s basketball team lost out on the opportunity to bolster their NCAA Tournament résumé as they lost a heartbreaker to the No. 9 Villanova Wildcats 57-54 on Saturday afternoon.

“It was a classic Big East battle to the end,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said. “We are disappointed we didn’t come out with the win but I’m proud of our team’s ability to punch and counterpunch in this hostile environment against a Top 10 team for 40 minutes. We now turn our focus to Xavier on Tuesday.”

Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard with 18 points and Ryan Arcidiacono with 12 points made key plays all afternoon to keep the Red Storm at bay. Combine that with the Johnnies only shooting 19-for-59 (32.2 percent) and two turnovers in the final 34 seconds; it would be too much for St. John’s to overcome.

The Red Storm’s (18-10, 8-7) loss to the Wildcats (24-3, 12-2) snapped their Big East winning streak at six games.

Defense was the trademark for the first half as both St. John’s and Villanova struggled to score. The Red Storm held the Wildcats to an 11-for-29 (39 percent) mark from the field, but Villanova’s defense was just as good as the Johnnies only shot 9-for-31 (29 percent).

St. John’s and Villanova battled in the second half. The Red Storm had multiple chances to take the lead from Villanova, as it was a close throughout the whole half.  The Johnnies had the opportunity to take the lead in the final seconds of the game as they were down 54-53 with 34 ticks remaining on the clock. But Phil Greene IV was called for a travel with 14 seconds left and that call all but ended the game for St. John’s.

“The entire team competed and continued to counter punch,” Lavin said.  “We didn’t go quietly into the night and we had our opportunities but didn’t put the ball in the basket frequently enough. We were getting stops and did the things defensively that we needed to do. But again we tip our hit to Villanova. They’re a good team and on their home court they’re even better. We want a place in the tournament field but to do that we need to win games down the stretch.”

St. John’s was led on the afternoon by D’Angelo Harrison’s 15 points, JaKarr Sampson’s 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Rysheed Jordan’s 13 points. The Johnnies came into the game as the second-ranked scoring defense (68.0 points per game) in the country as they were able to hold the Wildcats to a season-low 54 points, 23 points under their 80.7 points per game average, and forced them to commit 15 turnovers.