The St. John’s basketball team put on a Saturday night production of its newest show, “Winless,” in front of a packed house at the Garden, and it does not appear that it will be a limited engagement.
The Red Storm are now 0-6 in Big East play after falling, 78-71, to Villanova, the No. 1 team in the nation. Able to cut the deficit to four points with 49 seconds remaining in the game, St. John’s (10-8) failed to come all the way back from an 11-point hole despite a career-high 37 points from guard Shamorie Ponds.
“It’s adversity. We’re in a rut right now,” said St. John’s forward Marvin Clark II, who missed all but one of his seven shots from the field. “We just have to figure out how to knock the door down. Once we get that first win, I feel like we’ll taste blood and go on a run.”
The Wildcats are now 16-1, and won on an off night. Typically the headliner, Villanova wing Mikal Bridges (15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 turnovers) struggled most of the contest, but he hit all five of his free throws in the final minute, and punctuated the victory with a dunk over St. John’s forward Tariq Owens.
The biggest difference between the teams was depth as Villanova’s guards Donte DiVincenzo (25 points) and Jalen Brunson (12 points) picked up the slack for Bridges.
In the final minute, Villanova fans served as the chorus, chanting, “Let’s go Nova! Let’s go Nova!” as St. John’s booed the referees.
Ponds made 15 of his 28 attempts from the field. He also added 7 rebounds.
The Red Storm are now 0-6 in Big East Conference play.
(Frank Franklin II/AP)
“He was incredible,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
None of the other Red Storm players scored in double digits, but Ponds continued to drive to the rim, keeping St. John’s in the contest with his effort.
“We didn’t get the win,” Ponds said. “I’m not satisfied.”
There is no relief in sight for the Storm. The Johnnies trek to Cincinnati next to square with No. 10 Xavier on Wednesday before visiting Georgetown next Saturday and then hosting No. 25 Creighton on Jan. 23. St. John’s has not won a game since beating St. Joseph’s, 77-73, on Dec. 20.
“We’ve just got to do more winning plays,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “We’ll get there. There’s no question about that.”
Ponds beat Villanova back door for a layup to help his team to an early lead, and then he watched it all fade away as Villanova hit back with a barrage of threes. Villanova sold its pump fakes well, moved the ball around the perimeter and proved opportunistic inside and out.
Jay Wright and Villanova have remained machinelike in the New Year.
(Frank Franklin II/AP)
The Wildcats were also willing to hustle when shots did not fall. If it wasn’t Bridges diving on the floor for a loose ball it was forward Omari Spellman slamming home a dunk on Owens.
Spellman, who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs in at 255 pounds, also stepped beyond the arc to knock down a three from the left corner to contribute to Villanova’s rally before halftime.
“We just never got into sync all night,” Wright said.
St. John’s lost guard Marcus LoVett for the rest of the season on Wednesday. He had not played since late November, when he suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee. He was averaging 14.9 points per game. He was not on the bench for the game.
Mullin is now in his third season as the head coach at his alma mater.
As the losses add up and the headaches mount, he can look to the court and see that there is an appropriate sponsor for his team. The advertisement reads: “Advil.”