Friday, October 22, 2021

St. John’s shocks No. 3 Villanova in big statement win

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st. john’s red storm

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It may be time to start dreaming bigger than the NIT. It may be time for St. John’s and its fans to think about more than just finishing this season strong.

Mike Anderson and the Johnnies are fast becoming one of the hottest teams in the country. They are at least the hottest team in the Big East.

Just ask third-ranked Villanova, which was overwhelmed by the surging Red Storm, its efficient offense chewed up and spit out by the home team in Queens.

St. John’s pulled the upset, and it was never really in doubt. The Johnnies imposed their will and dominated the Wildcats, 70-59, for their fifth straight win and the sixth in their past seven contests.

The Red Storm (12-7, 6-6) moved into sixth place all alone in the Big East, just a game behind fifth-place Seton Hall, after forcing Villanova (11-2, 6-1) into a season-high 17 turnovers and holding the Wildcats to 8-of-30 from 3-point range and 32 percent shooting from the field.

Freshman Posh Alexander was the best player on the floor, notching 16 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals, while locking down Villanova star Collin Gillespie, helping force him into six turnovers and four points on 2-of-12 shooting.

Posh Alexander shoots a jumper during St. John’s win. Robert Sabo

Julian Champagnie, the Big East’s leading scorer, struggled offensively, but he came on late for the Red Storm and finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Isaih Moore and Vince Cole continued to shine, combining for 20 points. Dylan Addae-Wusu, Alexander’s high-school teammate, was again a two-way factor, producing nine points, four rebounds and two assists.

There were some early nerves for St. John’s, which trailed 10-3 just 4:12 in and missed eight of its first nine shots.

It didn’t last. The Johnnies found their footing relatively quickly, responding by scoring 20 of the game’s next 29 points. They rattled off 10 straight, which included 3-pointers from Alexander and Addae-Wusu and a ferocious right-handed slam from Greg Williams Jr., who was making his return after a three-game absence due to a back injury.

When Villanova responded with six points in a row to retake the lead, Cole hit a 3-pointer to put St. John’s back on top.

Defense was the story of the opening 20 minutes. The St. John’s pressure clearly bothered Villanova, forcing seven turnovers, limiting the Wildcats to 5-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc and 28 percent shooting overall.

Champagnie went scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting, yet the Johnnies led at the break due to a 12-6 edge in bench scoring and going 6-for-12 from deep.

The Red Storm created breathing room early in the second half, continuing to suffocate Villanova defensively, and started to execute on the other end of the floor. Cole hit two three during a 10-2 run and the lead grew to 14 after a Moore basket. Villanova eventually made a mini-run, getting to within 10, but St. John’s answered immediately with an Addae-Wusu drive, a Champagnie 3-pointer and an Alexander dunk to push the lead to 17 with 6:49 to go.

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