Top-ranked Villanova upset by hot St. John's team

Joe Juliano, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

PHILADELPHIA -- Top-ranked Villanova had a reason to be wary against St. John's, because the Red Storm were coming off an upset of No. 4 Duke and had been playing better than their 0-11 record in the Big East would indicate.

The Red Storm packed up all their momentum from the Duke victory on Saturday and delivered another shocker on Wednesday night, knocking off the Wildcats, 79-75, before a stunned crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.

Villanova (22-2, 9-2 Big East), which saw a nine-game winning streak snapped, trailed by nine with 2 minutes, 38 seconds to play after a runner by Shamorie Ponds, who led the visitors with 26 points.

But Jalen Brunson, who had an off-night shooting the ball, brought them back into the game with eight straight points, including a three-point play that cut the deficit to 67-66 with 1:25 to play.

After the Red Storm (12-13, 1-11) built their advantage back to five, 73-68, on two free throws by Justin Simon with 46 seconds to play, Brunson answered with two free throws. Tariq Owens hit one of two for St. John's, but Collin Gillespie hit a 3-pointer on a second-chance opportunity to pull 'Nova to within one with 23.2 seconds to play.

After Ponds hit one of two free throws, the Wildcats went for the go-ahead three but Omari Spellman missed from the left wing. Clark and Ponds each sealed the upset with a pair of free throws.

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Brunson finished with 28 points for Villanova, 14 of them coming in the final 2:24. Villanova made just 8 of 33 3-point baskets, including 2 of 18 in the second half.

The win broke a 54-game home winning streak that the Wildcats had built over unranked opponents.

The Cats overcame a 39-34 halftime deficit with a 7-2 run at the start of the second half, but then managed just one basket on their next nine possessions as the Red Storm ran out to a 50-43 lead on Ponds' 3-point basket with 13 minutes to play.

Back-to-back baskets by Simon restored the Red Storm's 7-point lead, 57-50, with 7:40 remaining. Meanwhile, the Wildcats were struggling, making just 4 of 16 shots over a stretch of more than 11 minutes while scoring nine points.


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