St. John’s basketball implosion ends in ugly loss to Villanova

St. John's basketball guard Andre Curbelo (Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball guard Andre Curbelo (Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports) /

The St. John’s basketball team imploded in its loss to Villanova and could never recover. 

The St. John’s basketball team had the looks of an NCAA Tournament team early against Villanova.

The Red Storm were moving the ball efficiently on the offense end of the floor while playing smart and connected defensively.

It led by as many as 11 points, 29-18, and freshman AJ Storr was making his introduction to the conference with eight early points on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the field.

Then, Storr checked out with 6:47 left in the half and a switch flipped.

St. John’s possessions were rushed and ending in quick shots while the defense began to disappear.

Head coach Mike Anderson said Storr came out of the game midway through the first half because he was “tired.”

The result was a 17-2 Villanova run over the final 5:47 of the first half as the Wildcats lead 35-31 at halftime.

“We got off to a pretty good start early on and they made their run right before halftime and I thought we were in good shape only four down to start the second half,” Anderson continued.

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Things did not fare much better for the Red Storm (11-2, 1-1 Big East) in the second half as the Wildcats carried its momentum out of the locker room and St. John’s did not have many adjustments to counter.

Villanova (7-5, 1-0 Big East) expanded its lead to as many as 17 points, 62-45, before cruising to its 78-63 victory.

The Wildcats outscored St. John’s 60-34 over the final 26:16 of regulation.

Storr finished the night with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range in 18 minutes of action.

The contrast in styles was very apparent as Villanova was calm and poised against the St. John’s chaotic style of play, despite its double-digit deficit, as the Red Storm were frazzled once the Wildcats went on its run and never regained its footing.

“Sometimes a little impatience takes place,” Anderson explained of his team’s mentality when its opponents rattle off extended runs.

“Our decision making, at times, was not the way it should be. We have to be better. I think we are a much better team than we put on display tonight.”

Joel Soriano, the team’s best player this season, struggled against the skill, size, and discipline of Eric Dixon despite his 11th double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Dixon posted 18 points in the victory while six different players scored at least eight points for Villanova.

Predicted strength of St. John’s basketball struggling

The St. John’s backcourt, which appeared to have an advantage over Villanova’s based on experience, was a combined 6-of-23 from the field as Posh Alexander and Andre Curbelo posted just six points each.

Alexander is averaging just 9.5 points per game on the season while shooting 36.3-percent (40-for-110) from the field and 13.0-percent (3-for-23) from 3-point range

“They have to be better,” Anderson said of his starting backcourt paring.

The Red Storm shot 36.0-percent from the field and 24.0-percent from distance and one of its best shooters, Rafael Pinzon, did not see the court against Villanova.

Pinzon only played two minutes in St. John’s victory over Florida State on Saturday but Anderson said that the sophomore guard is healthy and available to play.

Wednesday night presented St. John’s with a chance to prove that its lofty record was not a byproduct of its soft non-conference schedule but the Red Storm fell flat in its second true road game of the season.

The Johnnies will have a week off before a much improved Xavier (10-3, 2-0 Big East) program, led by head coach Sean Miller, comes into Carnesecca Arena next Wednesday night (9:00p.m. ET, FS1).