St. John’s-Villanova Preview

Thanks to the late-game efforts of Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova was able to end its three-game road stretch on a high note.

Now the ninth-ranked Wildcats return home to face streaking St. John’s in a key Big East matchup Saturday.

Arcidiacono’s three-point play with 3.6 seconds remaining in the second overtime gave Villanova an 82-79 victory over Providence on Tuesday. The sophomore guard missed potential winning shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime but finished with a team-high 21 points and six assists.

The Wildcats (23-3, 11-2) earned a much-needed victory after getting routed 101-80 by Creighton two nights earlier, a loss that’s left them a half-game behind the first-place Bluejays, who also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

”I still haven’t gotten over the Creighton game yet,” coach Jay Wright joked. ”I will. I like this team. It’s fun coaching this team. We get on them about mistakes, but they don’t get down.”

Villanova took the first meeting of the season with St. John’s 74-67 on Jan. 11 despite recording a season-low nine assists. Villanova is averaging 16.2 assists, among the best marks in the country.

"I think that was their first game of really starting to play well defensively," Wright said of the Red Storm. "They’ve gotten better since then. That was a good win (for us). They played well. I think they’re playing as well as anyone in the country right now.

"They’ve really become a good team, defensively and offensively. They don’t turn the ball over, they play great defense and rebound the ball."

That’s been clear during St. John’s six-game winning streak. The Red Storm (18-9, 8-6) have allowed averages of 63.2 points, 38.9 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from 3-point range in that stretch.

That smothering defense was on display Tuesday as St. John’s, winner of nine of 10, trailed Butler by three after a lackluster first half. It went on to outscore the Bulldogs 47-19 after the break for a 77-52 victory.

"I thought we played better in the second half and I was pleased that we were able to get the win," coach Steve Lavin said. "We now move forward with our focus turning to Villanova."

Leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison managed seven points – nearly 11 below his average – and shot 2 for 7 on Tuesday. Jakarr Sampson picked up the slack, scoring a career-high 23 for St. John’s, which has won its last two by a combined 37 points.

St. John’s is 1-4 against ranked opponents, including the loss to then-No. 8 Villanova last month. The one victory, though, came in their latest matchup with a Top 25 team, 70-65 over then-No. 12 Creighton on Feb. 9.

The Wildcats have dominated this series of late, winning 12 of the last 14 matchups. Both Red Storm wins in that stretch, however, came on the road.