The Wildcats are getting hot at the right time of year
Just a day shy of three weeks ago the Villanova Wildcats were handed their first Big East loss in the 2020-21 season at the hands of the St. John’s Red Storm. Last night they were able to avenge their loss and turn an early lead into a comfortable victory at the Finneran Pavilion, 81-58.
Unlike their first meeting, Villanova found their rhythm from beyond the arc early, netting five of their first seven attempts from three, while St. John’s uncharacteristically started the game missing each of their first five attempts from deep. At around the 13 minute mark Villanova went on a run, scoring on eight consecutive possessions and opening a 31-14 advantage on the Johnnies. The lead swelled up to as big as 20 points in the first half for Villanova and they took a 17-point lead into the halftime break. That would be as close as the Red Storm would get the rest of the way as Villanova rolled comfortably onto a 23-point victory.
Villanova won this game not only by shooting the ball efficiently, but more-so a combination of paint domination and a tenacious defensive effort. Leading the way for the Wildcats in the paint was Jeremiah Robinson-Earl who posted 12 points and six rebounds and Jermaine Samuels who posted another impressive stat line of 14 points and nine rebounds. Brandon Slater led the way defensively again, making key contributions that don’t always show up in the box score, but are certainly reflected in the final score.
What is reflected in Brandon Slater’s box score however is his uptick in minutes, accumulating upwards of 20 minutes in each of his last three games. Bob Cousy Award finalist Colin Gillespie also seems to be getting back on track after a turbulent stretch of shooting recently, scoring 14 points on an efficient 63 percent from the field. The Wildcats played a complete game and were never in danger of losing their undefeated home record this season. Their next matchup will be this upcoming Sunday against a reeling Butler team in Indianapolis at Noon on CBS.
As for the Red Storm they will need to quickly forget this loss, as time is running out for their chance at making the NCAA Tournament. At this point, even if they win out, a bid is still not promised. Their best chance of making the tournament would be to win the Big East Tournament, which they are certainly capable of, but seems unlikely. Although this year may not be their year, the future is very bright for the Johnnies. Mike Anderson has completely changed the culture and identity of the program and will be a very good coach for years to come.
St. John’s also has the front-runner for Big East Freshman of the Year, Posh Alexander likely returning, and if the Red Storm’s leading scorer Julian Champagnie stays another year (or two) the Johnnies will be on the national radar sooner rather than later. The Johnnie’s next matchup will come after an eight day break, where they will play host to the Providence Friars, a team that they have already beaten by double digits on the road, next Wednesday at 7:00p m on CBS Sports Network.