#9 Villanova Wildcats (23-3) vs. St. John’s Red Storm (18-9)
When: Saturday, February 22, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Result of Previous Meeting: Villanova won 74-67 at St. John’s on January 11
Key Players for St. John’s: #11 D’Angelo Harrison (6-4, 204) Jr., G; #23 Rysheed Jordan (6-4, 185) Fr., G; #14 Jakarr Sampson (6-9, 214) So., F
Scouting Report: St. John’s announced the loss of Chris Obekpa to injury earlier this week. This is good news for Red Storm opponents, as he was one of the best inside defenders in the Big East. The titan went down with an ankle injury during practice and will be out for a couple of weeks. Obekpa averaged 3.2 blocks per game and was one of the key contributors off the bench. Since the Obekpa injury, St. John’s has not skipped a beat.
They beat Butler 77-52, en route to their sixth straight win. He may have been quiet in the game against Butler, but D’Angelo Harrison to be their top scoring weapon. He is the third highest scorer in the conference, after Doug McDermott and Bryce Cotton, both whom Villanova has faced in the last two games. Harrison is averaging 17.9 points per games and he can do it in a number of ways. He prefers to slice his way through the defense as he drives his way to the rim. If he gets fouled as he drives, he’ll get his points either way. Harrison is great from the line, converting 86.7% of his attempts. He has been taking much better care of the ball this season, only averaging 1.3 turnovers a game, down from 2.2 per game from last season. The last time St. John’s played Villanova, he put up 22. Helping him out will be Jakarr Sampson and Rysheed Jordan, both have been playing very well as of late. The Red Storm need their big men to step it up, and that’s exactly what Sampson did against Butler. He is coming off of a 23 point and 8 rebound performance. He’s not that great from the line (58%) but he did a pretty good job last game, going 11 for 15 in free throws. He is the second highest scorer on the team right behind Harrison with 12.7 points per game, and the top rebounder with 6.1 boards per game. He’ll provide more offense than Obekpa would, but he will still get the job done on defense. Jordan, a freshman guard, has been putting together a decent first year for St. John’s. He recently had his best game of the year against Georgetown. He had 24 points and shot 8 for 11 on the floor. He is another slasher type guard, who moves quickly on the floor. His one problem is that he can turn the ball over quite a bit and that can be an issue for the Red Storm. Also, keep an eye out for Orlando Sanchez and Phil Greene IV. In his first year at St. John’s after playing at a junior college, Sanchez has shown that he is a tough, gritty player in the paint. He plays with great energy and grab rebounds well. He will be looking to have a better game this time around, after only being held to 4 points and no rebounds in the first meeting. Greene IV is a dependable player who adds solid minutes when he’s on the floor. He may not shoot free throws well, but he does everything else just fine. St. John’s has also started to give God’sgift Achiuwa more minutes and hope that he can fill the void left by Obekpa.
Outlook: Last time these two teams met, fans were in for a treat. It was a gritty, close battle until St. John’s just couldn’t hold the line anymore and Villanova had a late run to seal the game away. I feel that St. John’s is a team that is underrated at home, the result was similar to the game against Syracuse. It was close until a late run changed the story of the game. They are surging right now. The Red Storm started conference play slow, and have improved to a 3-4 conference road record. The reason why it was so close in the first meeting was that they played hardnosed defense and forced turnovers. The Wildcats turned the ball over more times than St. John’s did. Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston did a great job of otuplaying their bigs. They combined for 25 points and 17 rebounds while St. John’s starting big men only had a total of 14 points and 9 rebounds. They cannot let themselves to be outplayed inside, as it will be the key to winning. St. John’s is tough in the paint on both offense and defense. Defensively, the Wildcats’ guards and perimeter defense did a good job of containing Harrison on the floor. The one problem was that he went to the line 14 times. However, he was 4 for 13 on the floor. I don’t see it being as close as it was the first time. The Wildcats are at home, and they had sometime to recuperate after the tough games on the road earlier in the week. Villanova wins this one in the double digits.