PHILADELPHIA — It was one of those games that neither team seemed to want to win.
It included poor shooting by St. John’s, several turnovers by Villanova and loose balls and missed opportunities on both sides.
It was the kind of game where it took a little luck to break things open. In this case, it was guard Ryan Arcidiacono’s banked-in 3-pointer with 3:44 left that gave No. 9 Villanova the space it needed to escape the Wells Fargo Center with a 57-54 win over St. John’s.
Neither team looked anything close to sharp on the offensive end of the floor all game. The Wildcats finished shooting 39 percent (20 of 51) overall with 15 turnovers, while St. John’s was at just 32.2 percent (19 of 59) overall, its second worst shooting performance of the season.
Down two points late, coach Steve Lavin elected to let his talented backcourt make something happen. Instead, junior guard Phil Greene IV traveled with 14.1 seconds left, and Arcidiacono made one of two from the line to extend the lead to 56-53.
Following a blocked 3-point attempt, SJU senior guard D’Angelo Harrison found himself shooting two free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining. After making the first, he intentionally missed the second, but the Red Storm were called for a lane violation. ‘Nova freshman Josh Hart made one of his two attempts, and a SJU heave at the buzzer was off.
The win snapped a six-game winning streak for St. John’s, one that brought it from a team that looked dead in the water at the beginning of Big East play to putting itself squarely in the NCAA Tournament discussion.
Winning on the road against a ranked opponent certainly would have been a very nice boost to its resume.
St. John’s freshman guard Rysheed Jordan had a solid game for the Red Storm in his much-anticipated return to his hometown. The “Prince of North Philly” led Vaux HS to the PIAA Class A state championship last season and picked right back up where he left off, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds for St. John’s.
Villanova clamped down defensively in the first half, holding St. John’s under 30 percent shooting over the opening 20 minutes, but the Wildcats were unable to take advantage. Only guard Darrun Hilliard (11 points overall) had more than four points at intermission, as the home squad’s lead was just 28-27.
NOTES: St. John’s has played more games against Villanova than any other opponent, dating back to a 38-9 win on Dec. 20, 1909. … The game marked the second of four this season for Villanova in the Wells Fargo Center, typically home to the NBA’s 76ers and NHL’s Flyers. The Wildcats are 36-33 (.522) all-time at the building, but just 24-29 (.453) against Big East opponents. … St. John’s was without the services of senior big man Orlando Sanchez, who missed the game to be with his wife due to the birth of their first child. Sanchez, who was averaging 7.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this season, was replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore forward Chris Obekpa, who had been expected to miss 10-14 days with an ankle injury he sustained in practice on Monday.
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