Jan. 2, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova used a 15-3 surge in overtime to defeat St. John's 98-86 in the BIG EAST opener for both schools tonight at the Pavilion. The Wildcats improve their record to 10-4 overall, 1-0 BIG EAST while the Red Storm falls to 8-5 overall, 0-1 BIG EAST.
St. John's sophomore D'Angelo Harrison led all scorers with a career high 36 points.
"That's a great win - we'll take it," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "Harrison was too much. Our offense carried us tonight. Hopefully, we'll keep getting better defensively." "We didn't finish the first half or the second half well and it hurt us," stated St. John's coach Steve Lavin. "I thought both teams had stretches of good play and stretches where it wasn't so good. Give credit to Villanova - they finished each half well."
The Wildcats took advantage of stingy defense and strong rebounding to build an early 8-3 advantage. However, St. John's full-court defensive heat began taking its toll midway through the period and the Red Storm tallied nine of the game's next 11 points to grab a 12-10 lead with 11:44 to play in the half.
A triple from Arcidiacono ended the scoring drought and temporarily gave the Wildcats the lead but Harrison found his scoring groove as the Wildcats struggled at the offensive end with missed shots and turnovers. After a 3-pointer by Phil Greene Jr. and a free throw from Sir'Dominic Pointer, St. John's had a 26-20 lead with 6:44 to play in the first period.
Arcidiacono's long-distance work helped Villanova spark an 11-2 run that gave it a 33-30 lead with 4:02 to play in the half. The Wildcats took that three point lead, at 43-40, into the intermission.
Arcidiacono set the scoring pace for VU in the first half with 17 points, including four 3-point goals. Villanova converted .433 of its attempts from the field but was vexed by 13 turnovers that led to 18 points for the Red Storm.
A game which had begun as an offensive struggle in its earliest stages morphed into a different kind of contest after intermission as points flowed freely. The Wildcats crafted a 50-42 lead early in the period only to see the Red Storm fight back. Pinkston and Arcidiacono carried the scoring load for VU while Jamal Branch netted nine in the first 10 minutes of the period.
Each time Villanova extended the lead there was a response from St. John's. The biggest of those came when the `Cats moved out to a 68-60 advantage. The Red Storm rode the firepower of Harrison to a 14-6 surge and the game was deadlocked with 5:30 to play in regulation.
"There was some good counterpunching by both teams," noted Lavin.
The Red Storm used one final burst to reclaim the advantage as the clock wound down under three minutes. This one was a 7-0 run that gave them an 81-78 lead with 1:45 to go on the clock. But Darrun Hilliard was fouled on a 3-point attempt and dropped in all three free throws to pull the Wildcats even at 81 with 1:31 left in regulation.
"Darrun made a number of big plays late in regulation and in overtime," stated Wright. "Those free throws were huge."
Villanova came up with a stop on its next defensive possession and Pinkston was fouled in the act of shooting with 22.1 seconds left. He dropped in both free throws. St. John's turned to Harrison, who was fouled on a drive into the lane with 4.5 seconds to go. The sophomore calmly drilled both ends of the one-and-one and matters were tied again at 83.
Pinkston lost control as he attempted a final shot from half-court and the game headed to overtime.
The story of the extra period was Villanova's defense. The Wildcats clamped down and limited the Red Storm to 1-of-7 shooting from the field and capitalized on a couple of turnovers to slowly extend the lead to double digits. The final count was 98-86, which represented a season-high in points for the Wildcats, who are now 2-1 in extra time in 2012-13.
Villanova is idle until next Wednesday evening when it visits USF in Tampa, Fla.