basketball Edit

St. John’s Downed by No. 3 Nova

NEW YORK, NY - A different day but the result was all too familiar for the Johnnies on Saturday. A packed crowd rocked Madison Square Garden as the New York City program welcomed Coach Jay Wright and his third-ranked Wildcats.

A hot start met a cold stretch, first-year players looked like freshmen, and an opportunity to end a multi-year losing streak to No. 3 Villanova crept away as the second-half clock ticked towards 0:00. When the buzzer sounded, the 17,309 spectators counted in attendance watched the reigning national champions win 70-57 to claim their 10th straight win over St. John’s.

The Red Storm opened the game to a promising start — Bashir Ahmed connected on a pair of 3’s and the team forced Villanova into a 2 of 11 start. Holding a six-point advantage about a quarter into the half, things began to unravel starting with early foul trouble as Shamorie Ponds and Tariq Owens picked up a pair, respectively.

Villanova responded with a 16-5 run to close the opening period, taking a 35-29 lead into the half. In the second half, the St. John’s deficit stretched to 10 before a 5-0 run pieced together by a layup from Marcus LoVett preceding a 3-pointer by Shamorie Ponds.

Seven minutes remained on the clock but it didn’t take that long for Villanova to respond as Wright’s club immediately answered with a 13-2 run in 3 minutes to take a 66-49 game and essentially iced the game.

“We’re going to go through growing pains,” Chris Mullin said. “That’s what happens when you grow up. … I told the guys that minus the rebounds, the effort was good. We didn’t find our offensive rhythm, but that’s probably due to not rebounding the ball. Give them credit; their zone slowed us down.”

The Wildcats played just seven players but almost doubled the Johnnies on the board (41 to 23) including a plus-10 advantage on offensive rebounds. Neither team held on to the ball either, Villanova committing 20 turnovers — much to the dissatisfaction of Wright — while St. John’s handed the ball over 17 times.

“St. John’s has a lot of guys that are first-year guys in the program,” Wright said. “You do this to St. Johns the next time you play, you’ll probably get beat. They’re going to get older and more experienced and if they create disparity in how hard they play and how aggressive they are next time, they’ll probably beat us.”

Ponds and LoVett have been relied on to carry the scoring burden but struggled to produce many points for the team as they combined for more turnovers (six) than assists (5) while being held to 25 points on 9-of-23. On the other side of the ball, Malik Ellison continued his impressive defensive campaign, helping on Kris Jenkins (10 points) and Josh Hart (11).

“Malik has been doing a great job,” Mullin said. “We put him on some of the best forwards in the league and he’s really competed well. I’m of the belief that it’s a combination of both. I wouldn’t say we shut down Kris Jenkins because he went 1-for-10, but we concentrated on him and he had an off night. Malik has done a great job on some of the high scoring forwards we put him on.”