Villanova is no stranger to Madison Square Garden and over the years, has gotten some play from its seniors.
Although it wasn’t a pretty game, Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune was happy to see his Wildcats get another win, this time with a 57-49 victory over St. John’s to complete the regular season series. Share the praise for his team and a specific individual.
“It was great,” said Neptune. “The last two games, I think Jimmy has come into his own. He’s been really good for us, and not just scoring, but really defensively. He’s been playing tough all the time, running back all the time in a position, he’s been our rock defensively.”
Wait who is Jimmy?
“James. That’s my real name,” Villanova fifth-year senior Brandon Slater said, and was quick to get involved.
Put some respect on the guy’s name.
“When I play like Brandon,[Neptune]hits me,” Slater said. “When I play like Jimmy, he’s like, ‘Oh, brother.'”
Jimmy led the offense in the second half. While the Wildcats had plenty of ups and downs in a closely contested game, he remained a steady presence and kept ‘Nova on hand, even as the St. Louis Cardinals advanced. John’s for most of the game. Slater scored all 14 of his points in the second half on 5-of-7 shooting. He posted a game-high plus-minus rating of +18.
Slater also had the game-stealing seal and a coast-to-coast finish with 17.5 seconds left to secure the win for the ‘Cats.
“Honestly, when you play in the game, you just try to do the best you can play, and if you mess up, play the next one, and if you don’t, you have to build on that,” Slater said of the big second half. “I think I was just trying to play against my teammates and the coaches, and that was the only thing on my mind.”
Bright lights, a basketball mecca, a perfect Friday night prime-time slot—the conditions may have been impeccable for college basketball at Madison Square Garden, but that doesn’t mean it has to be pretty.
Villanova and St. John’s met for the second time this season, and while the Wildcats won by a fairly comfortable 15-point margin after pulling out in the second half on Dec. 21, Friday night was much closer.
“We’re a young team, we’re trying to get better all year long,” said Neptune. “In the last game, I thought we found a way to win, when we didn’t necessarily play our best, but that was a big step for us. This game, from start to finish defensively, we were really good and that’s really what we asked our guys to do, what you have to do.” Just stick to the defense and bring it up.
“Win, lose or draw, if we play like that defensively, I’ll be proud of our guys. We stuck with it and kept playing hard. It was tough. I’ve seen guys get gassed and I think in the past, maybe we would have given a little bit, and our guys fought through it.”
The Red Storm Wildcats were limited to just two shots over the final eight minutes of play.
“When you’re on the road, you need to be able to make plays and catch hits,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “We had so many chances, but we couldn’t score. Give credit to Villanova, they just kept grinding and grinding and grinding and finally got their break there. Our guys put in a great effort.
“We missed a lot of runs, a lot of shots. Look at the short shots we missed. We had chances but didn’t take advantage of them. I saw one possession where we had three rebounds and we still got nothing. You have to put the ball in and we didn’t we do that “.
While the Cats may have suffered from late-game offensive execution in the past, they capitalized on the Red Storm’s shortcomings in the end.
They shut out the game on a game changer, sealing the game, 17–5 running over the final 8:09 of play. An an-and-one by Slater, followed by an Eric Dixon basket, gave the ‘Cats the lead forever, 47-46 advantage with 4:31 remaining.
“Our focus is on the details,” Slater said of the biggest difference between the Wildcats’ first and second innings. “I felt like we were trying to get stops, trying to recover in the first half, but I don’t think we did it to the best of our abilities. In that second half we looked at each other and told each other this was a reality check. We’re not doing this to the best of our ability, So in the second half, we tried to do it even harder and more together for the sake of our teammates and the coaches.”
It was definitely a stronger finish, but both teams struggled coming off the opening tip.
In the first half of the U8 media’s time-out, with the score tied at 12, there were more combined turnovers (14) than shots made (8) and almost as many shots missed between the two teams (23) as total points (24). ).
While both teams had buckets here and there, it was only a prelude to the remainder of the game.
The false call with 0.8 seconds left allowed St. John’s to get two free throws to tie things up at 28 going into halftime.
While St. John’s led for most of the game, including the second half, the game was almost in hand, and neither team led by double digits.
Villanova closed solid to improve it to 10-10 overall and 4-5 in Big East play.
Unlike Slater, Caleb Daniels scored 16 points and four rebounds. Eric Dixon had seven points on 1-of-10, but was 5-of-7 from the free throw line. He also grabbed 11 rebounds. Chris Arcidiocono scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from long range, with two tackles, two steals and two turnovers. Mark Armstrong scored four points on 2-of-6 shooting, with a game-high four steals.
For St. John’s, Joel Soriano had 14 points and 16 rebounds. Dylan Addai-Wusu scored 12 points.
The Wildcats will get an extended hiatus and get back in action on Sunday, January 29, when they host Providence at 12 PM EST.