VILLANOVA, PA. 2/26/2020 – The Villanova Wildcats won their fifth consecutive game, all in the Big East, with a gritty 71 – 60 victory over the Red Storm of St. John’s. Saddiq Bey scored a game-high 23 points and freshman Justin Moore added 21 for the 12th ranked Wildcats. It was not easy, but no one expected it to be including Villanova Coach Jay Wright.
“I’m happy with the win,” said Wright. “That’s what they do. This league is good. We survive and we learn from it.”
Early in the game the Wildcats got a lead they never relinquished by hitting from three-point range. The Cats had 7 in the first half and 11 for the game. Moore and Bey got the team going early from beyond the arc. They combined getting the first seven baskets for Villanova, all but one a three-pointer. But St. John’s would not go away. They got back into the game with their defense and quickness which caused Nova some problems on both ends of the floor.
“They’re really quick,” Wright said. “They have great feet and great hands even offensively. We were getting over extended and they went by us. They have great team quickness.”
Saddiq Bey had to contribute by bringing the ball up the court. He had 3 assists. The speed of the Red Storm was a concern.
“They’re quick and stay up and are aggressive the whole time going for steals,” said Bey about combating the Red Storm defense. “They’re a good defensive team.”
“We had to be tough with the ball and be solid.”
The Red Storm pulled to within 53 – 51 with 8:02 remaining to play. The experienced Villanova players have been in this situation before, and they usually lead the team out of it. This time the freshman came to the fore. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl scored 7 of the next 9 team points, all at the foul line which built the lead back to 62 – 53 with just over five minutes left. Moore stepped up getting 7 consecutive Nova points and the advantage was 13 as just under two minutes remained.
Moore set a career-mark with 5 made three-pointers. He sank 8 of 11, was 5 of 7 from beyond the arc, and added 6 rebounds. How did he do it?
“My teammates found me in the right spots,” Moore said. “Just being aggressive and trying to make the right plays.”
Bey made 7 of 14 from the field, 4 of 8 from distance, and was 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Jermaine Samuels pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Red Storm defense caused 13 turnovers. Seven were by steals. Julian Champagnie swiped the ball three times. He added 10 points and 6 rebounds.
Rasheem Dunn and Marcellus Earlington had a team-high 12 points each, and Dunn handed out 5 assists.
“They had guys who made plays, and we had guys who almost made plays,” said St. John’s Coach Mike Anderson. “We talked about hanging around. I was proud of our guys effort against a Villanova team who was ready to play.”
St. John’s evened their record at 14 – 14, but are 3 – 12 in conference.
Villanova improves to 22 – 6 and are 11 – 4 in the Big East which puts them in a tie with Creighton for second place in the Big East, a game behind league leading Seton Hall. Nova concludes their home schedule on Saturday with a game against Providence at the Wells Fargo Center. It is late in the season, but the Cats continue to learn.
Written By: Glenn Papazian