• Joey Jarzynka

Johnnies stun No. 3 Villanova for fifth straight win

(PHOTO COURTESY OF ST. JOHN'S ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT)


It's evident the St. John's Red Storm (12-7, 6-6) are back in the New York Groove, since they've won five straight contests with the most recent victory coming against No. 3 Villanova Wildcats (11-2, 6-1), by a score of 70-59 inside Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday night.

There were early jitters from the Red Storm, as they started the game trailing 7-0 to the Wildcats, but were able to find its groove following the first media timeout of the game. Additionally, at that time, Villanova had grabbed six offensive rebounds early on, and had looked like it was going to man-handle the Johnnies throughout the brunt of the contest.


Not the case, what so ever, as head coach Mike Anderson was able to make some adjustments, that saw his signature defensive scheme, "40 Minutes of Hell" be put on a national stage tonight.


Defense was the theme of the game tonight, as freshman guard Posh Alexander led the Johnnies with 16 points, but also led the way with a trio of steals, and four rebounds. Two on the offensive glass, and two on the defensive board. He was also a game high +20 in the plus minus department.


“He had a phenomenal night. This dude…whoever’s got the biggest heart, this guy might top them. He’s a leader, that’s what he is. He’s got one speed, and I think our team takes on that personality as well,” said Mike Anderson following the victory about his point guard.


Coming out of the locker room, the Johnnies had a 30-27 lead, but then extended it to double-digits by going on a 10-2 run early on, thanks in large part to the junior pair of Isaih Moore and Vince Cole. The Johnnies also improved their record of 9-0, when they enter the locker-room with the lead, to 10-0 following tonight's victory.


"It was the Johnnies' night." said head coach Mike Anderson.


Villanova was able to inch back against the Johnnies but poor shot selection, and solid defense from the home team, was the fate in upset that sent shockwaves throughout the entire NCAA.


Take a peek at the five takeaways from the Carnesecca Arena victory:


1. DEFENSE!

The Johnnies held guard Collin Gillespie to four-points off two completed shots in 12 attempts from the field. Most notably, Gillespie was held scoreless from distance in eight tries as well. The senior guard had a difficult night, that he turned the ball over a season high six times, and was called for a 10-second violation in the backcourt as well. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl posted a double-double. Grabbed 17 rebounds, and added 14 points to the scoresheet. The other noticeable blemish was holding Jermaine Samuels to just a bucket on six attempts, and making him turn the ball over twice.


Coming into the game, Villanova led the nation in fewest turnovers per game, averaging 8.6. Tonight, the Wildcats more than doubled that number, as they turned the ball over 17 times.


2. Three Years to the DAY:

There was a tweet sent out by the St. John's Men's Basketball Twitter account that recalled the vivid memory of the Shamorie Ponds go-ahead triple to clinch the Red Storm's victory over No. 4 Duke on February 3, 2018. Just four days later, that same Johnnies team was able to pull off the ultimate upset in Philadelphia, as they took down No. 1 Villanova. That victory was the first in nearly 30 years over a No. 1 ranked team.

Tonight, the victory over No. 3 Villanova was the first ranked victory inside Carnesecca Arena since January 19, 1966 over No. 3 Saint Joseph's, which also happened to be Coach Lou Carnesecca's first season at the helm of the Red Storm (previously known as the Redmen).


3. Safe to call Julian Champagnie the closer?

Sophomore guard and BIG EAST scoring leader Julian Champagnie grabbed four rebounds, and one block in the first half. Are we missing a statistic in that sentence? Nope. Champagnie didn't record a single point in four attempts from the field. In the second half, the Brooklyn native tallied his first bucket, which just so happened to be a three-pointer before Jay Wright called a timeout, and attempt to slow the league's scoring leader down. It didn't work, since Champagnie added another 11 points to the scoresheet, and grabbed nine more rebounds in the second half.

He was asked if he believes that this team can be an NCAA Tournament team. "I always felt it, even during our down times."


Champagnie also added two more blocks in the second half as well, and was a dominant force in the paint.


4. Secondary Help:

We can't say enough about Dylan Addae-Wusu, who was an absolute beast on the court in 23 minutes recorded. While coming off the bench, it was safe to say that he was definitely overlooked for the likes of the two aforementioned stars on the roster in Champagnie and Alexander. Addae-Wusu tallied nine points, grabbed four boards, stole one, and blocked one as well.


Redshirt senior guard Rasheem Dunn added five rebounds, and five points, but, did in fact, turn the ball over five times in 29 minutes. The former St. Francis Brooklyn Terrier was able to seal the game shut with a pair of successful free-throws at the tail end of the game.


Junior guard Greg Williams, Jr. was a no-show in the second half due to a possible re-injury of his back. Williams, Jr. missed the previous games with the aforementioned lower-body issue. His four minutes of fame, came in the first half, when the junior slammed home an exclamation point of a bucket to narrow Villanova's lead to just one, roughly 11 minutes in.

5. NCAA Tournament hopes are no longer a fantasy:

Say it ain't so, Johnnies fans! When the Red Storm blew a double-digit lead to Marquette on its home floor nearly three weeks ago, St. John's fans lost all hope, and looked to call for Mike Anderson's job. Most likely, it's safe to say following five straight wins, and a program-changing victory, that Anderson's job is safe for the foreseeable future.


Oh yes, we forgot the best part. Expect this team to be on the bubble of entering the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis come March. They currently sit alone in sixth place in a crowded and star-studded Big East Conference, that includes the University of Connecticut, who have a spot...for now, within the preliminary tournament bracket. Why can't this team make some noise entering the final furlong of the season?


St. John's now embarks on a two game road trip as they head north to face the Providence Friars, who succumbed to Seton Hall, in its worst loss of the season, inside Alumni Hall tonight, for a huge contest on Saturday afternoon starting at 2 p.m. The game can be viewed on FS1.

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