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Jan. 25, 1998

Red Storm Sends Villanova Packing

NEW YORK (AP) - Felipe Lopez scored 22 points as St. John's beat Villanova 82-59 at Madison Square Garden Sunday, extending its winning streak to six.

Freshman Ron Artest came off the bench to score 21 points and grab a season-high 15 rebounds. Zendon Hamilton added 15 points and 11 rebounds, as St. John's (15-6, 7-3 Big East) dominated the boards 58-29.

John Celestand scored 16 points for the Wildcats (7-10, 4-5), who lost their fifth in a row and sixth in the last seven. Brian Lynch was the only other double-figure scorer with 13.

St. John's winning streak is the longest since it won the first seven games of the 1994-1995 season. The victory also halted a seven-game slide against Villanova. The last time the Red Storm beat the Wildcats was Feb. 27, 1993.

St. John's is off to its best start in the Big East since 1992-1993 when it also was 7-3. The overall 15-6 record is the Red Storm's best since the 1990-1991 season when they went 16-5 and finished 23-9 to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Malik Allen hit the first shot of the game, giving the Wildcats their only lead, as they missed their next 16 attempts while St. John's built a 23-3 advantage by the 8:55 mark. Artest had seven points during the run, Lopez six and Tyrone Grant five. At the half, St. John's led 35-19, as Villanova shot 20 percent (6-for-30), compared to the Red Storm's 40.6 percent (13-for-32).

Villanova closed within 11 three times during the second half, the last at 49-38 on a putback by Rafal Bigus with 11:18 to play.

The Red Storm answered with 10 straight points, the first 8 by Lopez who hit twice from 3-point range, extending to a 59-38 lead with 8:52 remaining.

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