Sloppy St. John’s Comes up Short Against Villanova

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Big East basketball season got tipped off in exciting fashion for the St. John’s Red Storm, unfortunately, it was a little more exciting for their opponent, Villanova.

The Wildcats defeated the Johnnies Wednesday night in a back-and-forth 98-86 overtime contest. Freshman Ryan Arcidiacono went for a career best 32, points and Jayvaughn Pinkston was unstoppable to the tune of 26, but St. John’s worst enemy seemed to once again be themselves. St. John’s just about matched their season average with 9 turnovers – they average 10.3 – in just the first half, but worse than that, went through stretches of horrendous offense, reaching their lowest point throughout a miserable three point overtime performance.

As the story has been all season long, sophomore D’Angelo Harrison led the way for the Red Storm – with a career-high 36 points – but without a real secondary scorer, the St. John’s offense just wasn’t able to keep them in the game tonight.

Sloppy on offense, and undisciplined on defense, it wasn’t surprising to see St. John’s lose this game. With Amir Garrett, JaKarr Sampson, Jamal Branch and Sir’Dominic Pointer all fouling out, Arcidiacono and Pinkston had their way with a team that seemed to play more defense with their hands, than their feet and brains combined.

This was unquestionable a big game for two teams trying to figure out their identity in a really difficult conference. Even though it was the first game of the Big East season, and a road game at that, I think this was really an important game for St. John’s to try and pull-out, and considering they had their chance to take/hold onto leads late in the second half, they showed where they really are at this point in the season by not coming through.

It’s encouraging to see St. John’s play such a tough game, especially when they only got two points from their second leading scorer on the season (Sampson), but some of the mistakes have to stop. Garrett fouling a three point shot at the 1:30 mark in the second half was an unforgivable mistake. Harrison pulling a three on a fast break with over 30 seconds on the shot clock at around the 2:45 mark, on his teams first possession with the lead since the 1:15 mark in the first half no less, won’t help them in big games.

As impressive as Steve Lavin’s young team can be when they’re clicking on all cylinders, he has to implement better strategies for when they’re not getting the ball to Harrison with ideal space to create, or when Sampson is really struggling. Or even defensively when their opponent has as good of an outside threat as Arcidiacano, and as good of an interior player as Pinkston was tonight.

If St. John’s struggled with Villanova, it’s not going to be any easier for them when they face teams like Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Georgetown, for all we know, improved teams like Providence and UConn.

St. John’s showed great resilience at times tonight, and maybe a few calls that should have went their way didn’t, but you can only make so many excuses. They were outplayed by Villanova, and if they can’t workout some of their problems, this is going to be another season in the bottom of the Big East for the Red Storm.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

 

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