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, in addition to 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 victory.
“We probably could have gotten a better shot with five seconds on the shot clock, but I had to take it with confidence, and that’s what I did,” said Arcidiacono, a sophomore point guard.
“It just went in for me, but you can always use a little luck in a game like this where no one can make a shot.”
Arcidiacono finished with 12 points, joining junior shooting guard Darrun Hilliard, who had 18, as the only Wildcats in double figures.
Neither team looked anything close to sharp on the offensive end of the floor.
The Wildcats shot 39 percent (20-of-51) and committed 15 turnovers, while St. John’s finished at 32.2 percent (19-of-59), its second worst shooting performance of the season.
“There was only one way we were going to win that game, defend and rebound,” said Wright, whose team wound up with a 41-33 rebounding advantage.
“We were not going to just go down and score on them, they were just too good defensively.”
Down two points late, St. John’s 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 1-of-2 free throws to extend the lead to 56-53.
Following a blocked 3-point shot, senior guard D’Angelo Harrison of St. John’s found himself shooting two free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining.
After making the first, he intentionally missed the second, but the Red Storm was called for a lane violation. Villanova freshman Josh Hart made 1-of-2 free throws and St. John’s missed a heave at the buzzer.
“We were trying to get a 3-pointer, but they had good coverage for 3s,” Harrison said. “I tried to cut to the basket and get an and-one, but I couldn’t do it.”
Harrison finished with 15 points, freshman guard Rysheed Jordan had 13 points and forward JaKarr Sampson had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Storm.
The loss 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.
“We’re in that stage of the season where you can’t be concerned with the past and you can’t get caught up with the fantasy of the future,” Lavin said.
“It’s incumbent upon us just to accumulate wins and control our own destiny based on how we perform.”
Jordan had a solid game for the Red Storm in his much-anticipated return to his hometown. The “Prince of North Philly,” who led Vaux High to the PIAA Class A state championship last season, finished with those 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting and six rebounds.
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 Hilliard, who finished with 11 points, had more than four points at intermission, as the Wildcats’ lead was 28-27.
NOTES: St. John’s has played more games against Villanova than any other opponent, dating 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 only 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 for
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