New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Having recently suffered their first loss of the season, the eighth-ranked Villanova Wildcats get right back to work as they challenge the 24th-ranked St. John's Red Storm in Big East Conference action at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Villanova took a perfect 13-0 mark into Saturday's road clash with Seton Hall, and the Pirates stood their ground in claiming a 66-61 triumph in overtime. The loss kept the Wildcats from establishing the best start in program history, which it matched with a 67-55 win over visiting Butler last Wednesday in their Big East Conference opener.
St. John's too began the season on a hot streak, logging an 11-1 mark against non-league foes. The start of Big East play however, has brought the team crashing back to earth as it has dropped back-to-back decisions to Seton Hall (78-67) and Butler (73-69). The recent loss to the visiting Bulldogs was the Red Storm's second in 11 home games, and the team will head out on the road for a pair in the next week or so, playing at Providence and DePaul.
St. John's leads the all-time series with Villanova, 59-49, but the Wildcats have won the last five meetings.
Despite a career day from junior center Daniel Ochefu, Villanova suffered its first loss of the season last Saturday, falling in overtime at Seton Hall. Ochefu scored 19 points and grabbed a whopping 24 rebounds, but a poor shooting performance by the team as a whole proved to be too much to overcome. The Wildcats, who also got a double-digit scoring effort from Darrun Hilliard (14 points), made good on only 31 percent of their field goal attempts, which included a 5-of-24 showing from 3-point range, and they converted only 20- of-35 free throws. The team's defensive effort limited the Pirates to just 35.5 percent field goal efficiency, encompassing a miserable 2-of-15 effort from beyond the arc. Villanova committed 15 turnovers, which Seton Hall turned into 18 points, and the home team also held advantages in points in the paint (26-22), fast break points (11-0) and bench points (26-19).
Balance continues to be the key to Villanova's success on offense, as the team boasts five double-digit scorers, with Hilliard sitting at the high end with 12.4 ppg, and Ochefu at the bottom with 10.1 ppg. Ochefu spearheads the team's rebounding effort with 8.7 rpg. Despite the issues they had in the Seton Hall game, the Wildcats are outshooting the opposition (.467 to .398 overall, .337 to .286 3-PT), and they use a +2.9 rebounding margin as well as a +4.7 turnover differential to keep the opposition at bay.
D'Angelo Harrison poured in 31 points, and two others scored in double figures as well, but those efforts went for naught as St. John's lost its second straight game, this time falling to Butler at home. Phil Greene IV tallied 14 points and Chris Obekpa chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds for the Red Storm, who shot 46.3 percent from the floor, but found the bottom of the net on only 4-of-14 3-point attempts. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs converted 7- of-12 long-range launches, and claimed a 34-26 edge on the glass. Both teams took good care of the basketball, combining for only 16 turnovers.
Harrison is averaging 20.3 ppg to rank second in the Big East, and he adds 6.2 rpg to his solid stat line. Three others net double figures as well for the Red Storm, who put up 71.2 ppg despite draining just 30.8 percent of their 3- point tries. The team's defensive effort allows the opposition to connect on only 30.5 percent of their long-range launches, 37.8 percent overall, in scoring just 60.6 ppg. Forcing turnovers has been one of St. John's strong suits, as it goads foes into 14.1 giveaways per contest.