With Chris Obekpa and Jamal Branch out, it looked like Villanova could just cruise to victory. Instead, St. John’s Red Storm went straight for Wildcats.
St. John’s was off to a red-hot start. Phil Greene IV made two quick jumpers to give the Red Storm the lead. Dylan Ennis got the Wildcats on the board when he was fouled during a three-point shot. He sank all three free throws. The Red Storm made the packed Wells Fargo Center uneasy, as they got off to a 16-5 lead in the first four and a half minutes. St. John’s started the game perfectly, making all of their first five shots. Meanwhile, Villanova was 1-for-6 to begin the game.
After the media timeout, the #4-ranked Wildcats displayed their typical poise and resolve, fighting their way back into the game. As St. John’s began to cool off, Villanova was heating up. Shots began to fall, as the Wildcats chipped away at the Red Storm lead. Villanova struggled from long range in the first half, but sophomore Josh Hart did not. Hart came off the bench and drilled back-to-back three pointers to tie the game with 4:47 remaining in the first half. St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin called for a time out, as the reanimated crowd got back into the game. JayVaughn Pinkston came out of the break and supplied a layup to give Villanova its first lead of the game. They went on to hold a narrow lead at the half, taking a 50-46 edge in the high-scoring affair.
The second half appeared to be more of the same. It was a tactical duel between both teams. Whatever one team did, the other promptly countered with an excellent response. Rysheed Jordan, who was a non-factor in the first meeting, played well in today’s game. Inside or outside, he gave Villanova’s defense problems. He swiftly drove to he basket and made his shots from long range. Jordan made a three pointer to make it 62-58 with 13:33 remaining in the game.
It was then Villanova exceeded their limits and played to a whole new level. The Wildcats have always been known for their second half play, but today was something else.
The Wildcats were a little shaky from long range, so they decided to take it inside. JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu out-hustled and out-played the Johnnies in the paint on offense. Pinkston and Ochefu found a lot of great looks to the basket off of pick and roll opportunities. They also created their own chances with offensive rebounds, combining for nine offensive boards.
An and-one for Ochefu resulted in Villanova’s first double-digit lead of the game. The Wildcats led 72-60 with 11:45 left in the game. They did not stop there. Villanova continued to take the ball inside, as its lead ballooned. The lead grew into the twenties, and even the thirties.
Villanova never took its foot off the gas, with every man getting a piece of the action and giving a 110% effort. Kris Jenkins buried a three-pointer to give Villanova its 100th point of the game. The Wells Fargo Center exploded in euphoria. The Wildcats held a 100-66 lead with just under four minutes to go.
The celebration wasn’t over just yet.
Darryl Reynolds added an emphatic putback dunk. Henry Lowe learned that the third time is always the charm. He missed his first shot, then the second, but made his third attempt. Lowe drained one from long range with 11 seconds remaining, putting the finishing touches on the dominant stretch. Villanova won 105-68, outscoring St. John’s 43-10 in the final 13:33 of the game.
Five Wildcats finished in double figures. Daniel Ochefu led the way with 21 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks. JayVaughn Pinkston supplied 18 points and six rebounds. Dylan Ennis had 17 points and six assists. Darrun Hilliard chipped in 14 points, six rebounds, and a pair of steals. Josh Hart came off the bench and finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
For St. John’s, Rysheed Jordan was the high scorer with 21 points. He also had eight assists. Phil Greene IV finished with 16 points and a pair of rebounds. D’Angelo Harrison had 15 points before fouling out of the game in the second half.
Villanova finishes the regular season with a 29-2 record. They will now gear up for postseason play, preparing for next week’s Big East Tournament.