No. 8 Villanova will be looking to avenge an earlier loss to St. John’s when the Big East teams meet again Tuesday night in Villanova, Pa.
The Wildcats (14-3, 9-2) played arguably their poorest game of the season in a 70-59 loss to the Red Storm (14-9, 8-8) on Feb. 3 in New York.
Villanova has won three of four since, including a gritty 68-60 victory over UConn on Saturday after a week off from games.
Collin Gillespie led the way with 20 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl added 17 points and 11 rebounds, while the Wildcats’ defense held the Huskies to 36.4 percent shooting from the field.
“We’ve still got some work to make up,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “A lot of the reason why we are not as good defensively is what we chose as a staff about how to allocate our time at practice. It really wasn’t the guys’ fault. What we ask them to do, they do. We’ve been trying to get other things organized and we just got away from defense.
“The guys really stepped up today after the week of practice,” Wright added. “It shows that what we emphasize they’re going to be good at.”
Villanova is never worried about offensive output. The team is so balanced with different players leading in scoring on a consistent basis.
It’s all about the other end of the court.
“I think it was a big step for us defensively,” Robinson-Earl said. “A week of just having practices and not games and just going back to the details and the little things that make us a great defensive Villanova basketball team has been very helpful.”
St. John’s has struggled over its past three games, defeating Xavier but losing to Butler and DePaul.
Despite 29 points from Julian Champagnie, the Red Storm suffered a difficult loss with regards to their NCAA Tournament hopes in an 88-83 setback to the Blue Demons on Saturday.
St. John’s allowed DePaul to shoot 63 percent from the field.
“There is a lot of stuff that can contribute to that (NCAA talk), but I just know that my job as a coach is to try and keep them in the moment,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “But they are human, they are kids, and sometimes you read the clippings, but then people show up to play you. St. John’s, with how we are playing, people are going to come at you a little harder. DePaul came back and punched us.”
The Red Storm have proved they can defeat solid teams, as evidenced by the earlier win over Villanova.
Now they have to do it again to strengthen their NCAA tourney resume.
“It’s upsetting, but we’re not going to lay down,” Champagnie said of falling to DePaul. “We have to battle and that’s it. You’ve got to move on. Next game we play Villanova on the road which we have to win now, regardless. We are not going to sit here and cry about it.”
Anderson’s message was simple after the loss.
“He just told us that it happens, we got ‘out-toughed,’ which is what everybody knows, and to be ready for practice because we play on Tuesday,” Champagnie said.
–Field Level Media