St. John’s Falls To Villanova, 57-49, In First MSG Game Of The Season

Playing against a weakened Villanova team still without Justin Moore, the Johnnies were unable to capitalize.

Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s Men’s Basketball team snapped their two-game winning streak in conference play with a crushing 57-49 loss against Villanova on Friday, Jan. 20 in Madison Square Garden.

Despite playing close with a Villanova team that has shown weakness throughout the early season, the Johnnies were unable to close out the contest in front of a fervent Red Storm fanbase.

“Our students and fans showed up in numbers,” head coach Mike Anderson said in a postgame media conference. In a rare occurrence, the second level of Madison Square Garden was opened to accommodate the 13,500 fans in attendance. 

Both teams struggled to convert on field-goal attempts throughout the game, especially in the first half. Villanova shot 35 percent from the field in the first period, while St. John’s was limited to a 31-percent clip.

But as is often the case with Wildcat teams, three-point conversions made all the difference. Out of nine field goals made by Villanova in the first half, seven were beyond the arc, allowing the team to prevent St. John’s from building a significant lead.

After the first 20 minutes of play — and a replay review at the buzzer — St. John’s and Villanova were tied up at 28.

The Red Storm came out strong in the second half, and the team had a few calls go their way, leading to an outburst by Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune, who was charged with a technical foul. That marked the turning point in the contest, as St. John’s received few favorable calls after Neptune’s tech.

Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The Johnnies extended their lead to as many as six towards the end of the final period, although at times it wasn’t pretty. To the ire of fans, Anderson called a timeout shortly before the under-four media timeout. Andre Curbelo turned the ball over immediately after play resumed, effectively wasting both timeouts and a late-game possession.

Valiant efforts from the Red Storm defense were squandered by an insistence on playing quick, even when outnumbered. “[Villanova] did a good job, for the most part, of controlling the tempo,” Anderson said. “When we did have a chance to control the tempo, I thought we went too fast.”

In the game’s final four minutes, St. John’s committed three turnovers and made just one field goal, bringing their game-total to 17 turnovers. That allowed Villanova to pull away when it mattered most, sealing their victory.

“The atmosphere was great, but we just have to finish it out next time,” said senior center Joel Soriano, who recorded his NCAA-leading 17th double-double amidst the loss.

The Men’s Basketball team will return to action Wednesday, Jan. 25 when they face Creighton in Omaha at 9 p.m.