Johnnies Fail to Notch Signature Win at Villanova | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / May 24.
  • Johnnies Fail to Notch Signature Win at Villanova

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    PHILADELPHIA — St. John’s came up short in its bid for a signature win, losing Saturday at No. 9 Villanova, 57-54, before 17,124 at the Wells Fargo Center.

    The Johnnies (18-10, 8-7 Big East) had won six straight and nine of 10 to vault back into the NCAA Tournament conversation after starting 0-5 in Big East play.

    Still, their only marquee win at this point is a victory over then-No. 12 Creighton.

    Entering the day, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had St. John’s as a No. 11 seed and playing No. 6 UConn.

    St. John’s has three league games left and probably has to win at least two plus a couple more in the Big East tournament next month at Madison Square Garden to solidify an NCAA bid.

    “St. John’s is a tournament team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Not because I say so, but because they’re good enough.”

    “If we’re going to do something special come March we’re going to have to turn our attention toward Xavier [on Tuesday] and protect our homecourt,” head coach Steve Lavin said.

    Lavin said the team’s goal was to “win the Big East Tournament,” but said the “eye test” will be key in determining if they make the NCAAs.

    “We’ve won nine of 11 but …if you look at our entire body of work…our team is coming together at the right time of the year,” Lavin said. “Now it’s incumbent upon us to accumulate wins and control our own destiny.

    “That’s really the key to making the NCAA Tournament, it’s how you play in these final two weeks.”

    After a nip and tuck game, D’Angelo Harrison drove in for a bucket to cut the Villanova lead to 54-53 with under a minute remaining.

    Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu (11 points) made 1-of-2 to push the lead to 55-53.

    St. John’s had a chance to tie the game but Phil Greene IV was whistled for a travel with 14.1 seconds left after taking a pass from Harrison near the basket.

    “They called travel,” Harrison said. “We can’t control that…We can’t worry about that. That’s not our job. We gotta get ready to flush that and get ready for the next one.”

    St. John’s fouled Ryan Arcidiacono, who made 1-of-2 to give the Wildcats a 56-53 lead with 11.4 seconds left.

    Harrison (15 points) attempted a 3-pointer from the corner with 3.2 seconds left but was blocked by James Bell.

    Harrison was then fouled and made the first free throw before intentionally missing the second to cut it to 56-54.

    Josh Hart made 1-of-2 with 1.5 seconds left and Philadelphia native  Rysheed Jordan (13 points, six rebounds) missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer.

    Darrun Hilliard scored a game-high 18 points for Villanova (24-3, 12-2), which has won 8-of-9. Arcidiacono added 12.

    “We’re frustrated..but now we gotta get ready for the next one,” said JaKarr Sampson, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.


    Lavin said Chris Obekpa can get back “close to 100 percent” with additional time and rest. Obekpa played with an ankle injury and finished with 1 points and 2 blocks. St. John’s was also without big man Orlando Sanchez, whose wife had a baby daughter.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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