No. 3 Villanova takes on battle-tested St. John's (Jan 14, 2017)

BY AP • January 13, 2017

NEW YORK -- St. John's faces its third ranked team in the last four games when No. 3 Villanova pays a visit to Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon.

The Red Storm (8-10, 2-3 Big East) lost to No. 8 Creighton (85-72) on Jan. 4 and to No. 15 Xavier (97-82) on Jan. 7. St. John's opened its conference schedule with a 76-73 win over then-No. 13 Butler.

The challenge of knocking off the Wildcats (16-1, 4-1) will be a huge one. It's been close to 15 years since St. John's has defeated the defending National Champions at home.

"I don't really look at it as three game sets and what happened in the past," said Red Storm coach Chris Mullin. We had three great wins; that's part of sports, winning and losing. To me it's always more important with how you handle it and approach it. We're trying to use each game, the good wins and tough losses, as learning experiences. The key word there is experience and that's what it's always about.

"(Villanova) is one of the best teams in the country so it shouldn't be any problem motivating (our team)," "They play a beautiful team game, have experience and they're a really tough team so we're looking forward to that game on Saturday

The Red Storm feature two of the most exciting freshmen in the country. Marcus LoVett (17.6 ppg) and Shamorie Ponds (17.5 ppg) continue to develop as one of the top backcourt tandems in the Big East. LoVett and Ponds are fifth and sixth, respectively, on the conference's scoring chart. The lefty guards are the second-highest scoring pair in the league.

The Red Storm rank third in the nation in blocked shots per game, averaging 6.7.

The Wildcats own a nine-game win streak against the Red Storm. Villanova has won its past two conference games by double digits after falling for the first time this season on Jan. 4 at Butler. The Wildcats are coming off a 25-point win over Xavier on Tuesday at The Pavilion.

Villanova had five players score double-figures, including a game-high 20 points apiece from Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Hart, the Big East's Preseason Player of the Year, averages a league-best 19.8 points per game.

"I just think he's (Hart) as complete of a player as anybody in the country," Villanova coach Jay Wright told Foxsports.com. "He does everything for us. He defends the best player on the other team. He's one of our leading rebounders, if not our leading rebounder, and one of our top assist guys.

"He's a triple double almost every night, gets big buckets at the end of the game, (makes) big plays and is a leader on and off the court. He just does everything. He's a complete basketball player and I think he's position-less. Sometimes we play him at the point and he initiates the offense, sometimes we post him up. He does everything.

Wright's team is sixth in the country in free throw percentage (78.6) and seventh in field goal percentage (50.7). They have defeated their opponents by an average of 15.4 points.


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