Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Hoping to keep pace in the race for the Big East Conference title, the ninth-ranked Villanova Wildcats will have their hands full this afternoon as they entertain the surging St. John's Red Storm.
St. John's comes in sporting an overall record of 18-9, which includes an 8-6 league ledger. The Red Storm have won six in a row and nine of their last 10 overall to move into fourth place in the Big East standings. Despite the success the team has enjoyed this season, it is just 3-4 in true road games, although it has claimed victory in it last two and three of its last four bouts away from home overall.
As for Villanova, as long as it doesn't face first-place Creighton, things are just fine. The Wildcats, who only have three losses in 26 games this season, two of which came in lopsided affairs against the Bluejays, they have won six of their last seven, the most recent of which being an 82-79 double-overtime thriller at Providence on Tuesday night.
St. John's owns a 59-48 lead in the all-time series with its long-time league rival, but the Wildcats have won the last three meetings, including a 74-67 decision at Madison Square Garden just last month.
JaKarr Sampson was a man possessed in the Red Storm's 77-52 shellacking of visiting Butler earlier this week, as he shot 11-of-15 from the field in scoring a game-high 23 points, while also pulling down eight rebounds and coming up with a pair of steals. He did however, turn the ball over five times, part of a 14-miscue outing by the home team. Jamal Branch was the only other player on the roster to reach double digits, as he tallied 10 points while also handing out five assists. The Red Storm shot 48.3 percent from the field, while holding the Bulldogs to 31.7 percent, which included a dismal 4- of-22 showing from beyond the arc.
St. John's is a solid offensive team, relying on six guys who average at least 6.5 ppg. D'Angelo Harrison spearheads the effort with 17.9 ppg, while Sampson accounts for 12.7 ppg to go with his team-leading 6.1 rpg. The Red Storm are on the plus-side of the ledger with regard to scoring (+7.1), rebounding (+0.5) and turnovers (+2.7), while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor, compared to just 40.3 percent for the opposition.
Ryan Arcidiacono scored 21 points and JayVaughn Pinkston added 20 more, helping Villanova knock off Providence in two extra sessions earlier in the week. In actuality, all five starters reached double figures for the Wildcats, who shot 45.3 percent from the field, while knocking down 9-of-28 3-point tries, four coming from Arcidiacono, who also dished out six assists, and three belonging to Darrun Hilliard (11 points). James Bell scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Daniel Ochefu finished with 11 points and eight boards. The 'Cats forced 19 turnovers, while also controlling the paint to the tune of a 40-28 scoring advantage.
Ochefu is the only starter not averaging double figures in the scoring column for coach Jay Wright's club, which gets 16.1 ppg from Bell, 15.1 from Pinkston, 13.6 from Hilliard and 10 from Arcidiacono. The team as a whole is lighting up the scoreboard for 80.7 ppg, doing so behind typical shooting efforts of .466 overall, .362 from beyond the arc, and .730 from the foul line. Defensively, 'Nova permits 68.5 ppg, with foes draining just 41.1 percent of their total shots.