Nothing is ever guaranteed in the Big East.
While No. 14 Villanova (15-5, 8-2 Big East) has won 12 straight at its on-campus arena against St. John’s, it doesn’t mean the matchup with the Red Storm on Saturday will be easy by any means.
Wildcats coach Jay Wright constantly sends that message to his group.
“There is nowhere you go in this league where basketball isn’t important,” said Wright, in his 21st season at Villanova. “Every game on these campuses is the most important thing. Guys that pick these schools are picking them because they’re basketball schools — not because they went to a football game on a weekend and had a good time.
“They’re going there to play basketball, and it makes this league really tough, top to bottom.”
In their most recent game, the Wildcats defeated DePaul 67-43 on Tuesday, leaving Villanova in second place in the conference behind No. 17 Providence (18-2, 7-1).
Justin Moore led Villanova with 16 points while Player of the Year candidate Collin Gillespie added 14.
Moore expects the upcoming battle against the Red Storm to be just as difficult.
“Every game, it’s physical out there, and that’s why it’s one of the toughest conferences,” Moore said.
The Wildcats hold an advantage over most other programs in the conference thanks to veteran leadership anchored by Moore, Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels.
“Collin, Justin and Jermaine are the ones on the floor that keep everyone together,” Wright said. “I’m saying the same things all the time. Whether it gets done is up to the guys on the floor. We have leaders who got it done on the floor.”
St. John’s (11-7, 3-4) will look for its second win in a row after a resounding 84-63 victory at Seton Hall on Monday.
Posh Alexander scored 19 points and senior Aaron Wheeler added a career-high 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
“Our energy level was totally different than how we played a couple of days ago,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said after his team bounced back from a six-point loss to Seton Hall two days earlier. “That’s all we talked about. Guys played with multiple efforts. They trusted one another.”
The Red Storm came out aggressively from the opening tip on Monday, built a 21-point lead before halftime and never allowed the Pirates to mount a comeback.
“We were active on the glass,” Anderson said. “It was a tale of two games. We made some shots, and when you make some shots on the road, it’s important. It’s very, very important. … That’s the team I’ve been looking for.”
Following the defeat in the first matchup with the Pirates, the Red Storm held a team meeting. There was a common theme — they weren’t performing like a program expected to earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament.
“We had a lot of voices in that meeting,” Wheeler said. “Criticizing each other, but that’s what you gotta do. We had to figure out a way to get a road win. Nobody took anything personal, but we were able to figure out things in that film session.”
–Field Level Media