Villanova 79, St. John's 76
Maalik Wayns had another big game for Villanova, and it meant the Wildcats' first winning streak since late November.
The junior guard scored 28 points, his third straight game with at least 25, and Villanova beat St. John's 79-76 in overtime Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Wayns had 39 points in a loss to Cincinnati and then 25 in a win over Seton Hall. Those games followed a three-point effort in a loss to top-ranked Syracuse, a game where Wayns, the Big East's second-leading scorer with an 18.2 average, was 0 for 7 from the field.
''As a leader of this team, as a leader of this program, I felt like I let my team down that game,'' he said. ''We came back to practice the next day to get better and my coaches and my teammates have total confidence in me and they told me to put it behind me, just go out there and keep getting better and my teammates, we keep getting better and it's allowing me to play pretty well.''
The last time the Wildcats won consecutive games was when they opened the season 4-0. It's been up and down since for a young team and this win was the same way.
St. John's led 60-50 with 6:49 to play in regulation, but the Wildcats were able to tie it at 67 on a jumper by Wayns with 30 seconds left in regulation.
Villanova opened the overtime on an 8-1 run, but the win wasn't sealed until Wayns made two free throws with 22 seconds left that made it 79-76. Sir'Dominic Pointer missed a possible tying 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.
''I'm really proud of our guys,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ''These are just things we have got to go through as a team.''
Wright thought about how inexperienced his team - one without a senior and just three juniors in the rotation - is when they trailed by 10 with less than 7 minutes to play.
''I was thinking, `We're down 10 because of our inexperience.' Then I thought, `They're way more inexperienced than we are.' I didn't say that to our guys. I just told them to tough it out and play each possession,'' Wright said. ''We have to learn how to do that. Our guys can't be worried about the other team. We have enough trouble ourselves.''
Dominic Cheek had 20 points and JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Villanova (10-10, 3-5).
D'Angelo Harrison had a season-high 28 points for the Red Storm (8-11, 2-6), who lost their fourth straight and sixth of seven, while Moe Harkless had 16 points and Phil Greene added a season-high 14. They are three of the four freshmen who start for St. John's, which plays just seven players.
''I don't think we ran out of gas,'' Harrison said of losing the double-digit lead in regulation. ''We played tentative with the lead. We have to be more aggressive. They got easy baskets and you can't have those when you have the lead.''
Mouphtaou Yarou had 13 rebounds for the Wildcats, who finished with a 52-36 advantage on the boards.
St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who runs the team while head coach Steve Lavin continues his recovery from prostate cancer surgery on Oct. 6, didn't want to hear about any statistic except one.
''We left the game on the free-throw line, it was that simple,'' he said of the Red Storm's 14-of-25 effort, including going 3 of 8 from there in overtime. ''You can talk about the rebounds and you can talk about the turnovers (21), but the bottom line is free throws are easy baskets and when you miss 11 of those it's real simple, something you have to do better.''
Harkless made four of nine free throws for the Red Storm, who came in shooting 69 percent from the line.
Villanova was 15 of 26 from the free-throw line, well off their conference-leading 76.4 percent coming in.
The Wildcats opened the overtime period with the 8-1 run that featured 3-pointers by Cheek and James Bell. Villanova was just 4 of 22 from 3-point range in regulation. The Wildcats entered the game 15th in the 16-team conference in 3-point shooting at 30.3 percent - ahead of only St. John's (24.3 percent).
The Red Storm were able to get back within 77-74 on a drive by Amir Garrett with 54 seconds left. Villanova's Marcus Kennedy missed two free throws with 38 seconds left and Garrett scored on a steal and layup to make it 77-76 with 29 seconds to go.
Cheek made two free throws with 1:54 left in regulation to tie it at 63. Harrison scored on a drive - the only field goal in the closing 6:49 - to give the Red Storm a 65-63 lead with 1:23 to play.
Wayns tied it with 1:07 left. Harrison made two free throws with 48 seconds remaining to give St. John's its last lead. Wayns tied it on a short jumper with 30 seconds to go.
St. John's turned it over with 10 seconds left and Villanova missed three shots over the final seconds to send it to overtime.