No. 3 Villanova puts perfect league mark on line at St. John’s

NCAA Men's Basketball

Villanova will chase its 10th consecutive victory when it opposes St. John’s on Wednesday night in New York.

The third-ranked Wildcats improved to 11-1 overall and 6-0 in the Big East with a hard-fought 80-72 road win over Seton Hall on Saturday.

Villanova, the lone remaining undefeated team in the conference, hasn’t lost since an 81-73 overtime setback against Virginia Tech on Nov. 28 in Uncasville, Conn.

In the Saturday win over the Pirates, ever-improving Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the way with 23 points despite being in foul trouble.

“He scored 23 points, but he is so good defensively and he is the centerpiece of our defense,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “He can guard any position, but he also communicates out there. He’s always talking. So that’s what we really missed when he was out.”

Yet the Wildcats found a way to win. Again. They continue to show that they’re one of the most resilient teams in the country. Villanova has built its winning streak even with four separate pauses for COVID-19. Injuries to a couple of key reserves, most notably Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, have limited the team’s depth.

Other players such as Jermaine Samuels have elevated their level. One week after being named Big East Player of the Week, Samuels scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half against the Pirates.

“Coming into the second half, I was just worried about trying to make the right play for my teammates and just being aggressive,” Samuels said. “My teammates got me opportunities to make plays and I took advantage.”

Villanova’s Collin Gillespie added his second career double-double with 11 points and a career-best 11 assists.

St. John’s will be searching for its fifth straight victory when it hosts the Wildcats.

The surging Red Storm edged Marquette 75-73 Sunday, improving to 11-7 overall and 5-6 in the Big East. They’ve already matched their total amount of conference wins from last season in only 11 games.

Julian Champagnie paced St. John’s with 22 points and seven rebounds against the Golden Eagles. He has scored at least 20 points in seven games this season. Posh Alexander added 15 points and a season-best six steals.

The Red Storm are clearly a much more confident team heading into this marquee matchup.

“I think our guys are connected offensively and defensively and trusting one another,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “We are taking more charges than we did earlier in the year. Guys are understanding their roles and what they can bring to the team. Even Josh (Roberts), he played (17) minutes, but his presence was big.

“He had a big shot block there in the second half when we were kind of reeling a little bit. So I think it is a combination of guys playing in meaningful games and now they know what to expect from each other.”

Next up, Villanova.

“Well, again, I know it is cliche but enjoy it until midnight and then we turn our attention to a team that could win it all and we have a chance to play it at our place,” Anderson said. “So it is next game up, and it is the biggest game on our schedule.”

–Field Level Media

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