Brandon Slater Converts Two Free Throws With 2.8 Seconds Remaining
March 10, 2022 –
The mantra for March college basketball is survive and move on. That is precisely what the Villanova Wildcats did in their quarterfinal round game against the St. John’s Red Storm. The Wildcats trailed 65 – 64 with just 2.8 ticks on the clock. Brandon Slater went to the foul line and made two game-winning free throws. The #2 seeded Wildcats advance to the semifinal round in the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden.
After a timeout with 22 seconds left Villanova looked for the winning shot. The clock wound down to 4 seconds. Jermaine Samuels missed a jumper. He got the offensive rebound, the ball went to Slater who went to the basket, and was fouled by Aaron Wheeler. Slater hit the first. St. John’s called timeout. Slater came back the line and calmly swished the second. A desperation shot by the Red Storm was not close as the horn sounded. The Cats were moving on.
“We work on free throws every day in practice,” Slater said. “So when I step to the line my teammates and
coaches, they were telling me, we do this every single day. They gave me that confidence and I was able to knock it down.”
Early Advantage to St. John’s
But St. John’s would control the action going into halftime leading 30 – 23. The Red Storm stretched that lead to 17-points early in the second half. Then, Villanova began their comeback. Using a 24 – 6 run over a seven and a half minutes to take the lead on two free throws by Caleb Daniels, who scored a team-high 19 points. This was the largest deficit overcome by Villanova in a reconfigured Big East Tournament game.
The Dramatic Last Two Minutes
Coming down the stretch both teams traded the lead. As just over two minutes remained the Red Storm held a 65 – 64 lead. The Wildcats missed their next three shots. St. John’s took possession with 48 seconds to go. They set up a play after a timeout. Julian Champagnie had an open three from the corner that missed. Collin Gillespie corralled the rebound to set up the critical last possession.
‘We weren’t disappointed in our play at all,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “If you watched them last night, watched them the last couple of games, they’re playing great basketball. We said this as a team, of all the games yesterday, and everybody played well, we thought St. John’s played the best yesterday of anybody. So we knew coming into this game it was going to be this kind of game. And they were really good. And we just toughed it out.”
Champagnie scored a game-high 23 points for the Red Storm. Stef Smith added 10. Posh Alexander scored 10 points and handed out 5 a game-best 5 assists. He went to the bench with foul trouble during the early part of the Nova run. Alexander finished with 4 fouls.
“I thought our guys left their heart, guts and everything on the floor, and came up a little short,” said St. John’s Coach Mike Anderson. “Congrats to Villanova. They hung in there, hung in there. And I guess their experience kicked in gear at the end. Defensively, I thought we were there. And we know a lead against a Villanova team in the second half, they’re going to make a run. They have been there; they’ve done that. But even with that being said, as we had an opportunity to make some plays, we didn’t. And they made some plays at the end.”
Justin Moore added 15 points for Villanova and Gillespie had 14 points. The Wildcats made 17 of 20 free throws. St. John’s converted 7 of 11.
Villanova was somewhat short handed as Jermaine Samuels had back spasms and Eric Dixon did not feel well. Both played.
Up Next? The semifinal matchup on Friday as Nova awaits the winner of the Seton Hall vs. Connecticut game.
Written By: Glenn Papazian