NCAAB: St. John’s eyes third straight win in Villanova rematch


Two weeks ago, St. John’s was encouraged by its performance in a close loss at Providence, and now the Red Storm are feeling even more positive about recent results.

Coming off a double-digit win at No. 15 UConn, the Red Storm seek a third straight victory Friday night when they host Villanova at Madison Square Garden.

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Starting with a 78-63 defeat at Villanova on Dec. 21, the Red Storm (13-6, 3-5 Big East) lost five straight, falling to Xavier, Seton Hall, Marquette and Providence. In the 83-80 setback to the Friars, St. John’s rallied to tie twice in the second half after facing an eight-point deficit and coach Mike Anderson liked the energy.

Anderson had plenty to enjoy in the subsequent two games, a 16-point home win over Butler on Jan. 10 and Sunday’s 85-74 win against the Huskies in Hartford, Conn.

On Sunday, the Red Storm outscored UConn 47-36 in the second half, shot 51.7 percent for the game, allowed 41.8 percent shooting and forced 21 turnovers.

As usual, St. John’s received a big game from NCAA double-doubles leader Joel Soriano, who collected 19 points and 13 rebounds for his 16th double-double.

“This game proves a lot,” said Soriano, who also felt the Red Storm “quit” during an 88-66 loss at Seton Hall on Dec. 31. “It shows what we can do when we’re together, and when we’re connected.”

Villanova (9-10, 3-5) has lost five of seven since overcoming an 11-point deficit in the first St. John’s meeting.

The Wildcats are coming off a 77-73 win over Georgetown on Monday. They avoided a fourth straight loss when they rallied in the final two minutes.

Caleb Daniels hit nine of Villanova’s 23 free throws and scored 16 points while Brandon Slater added 15 to compensate for Eric Dixon being held to 12.

“We’re a team that needs to grow,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said after his team survived allowing 53.8 percent shooting to the Big East’s worst team. “This was a big step for us.”

The Wildcats continue to play without Justin Moore and Jordan Longino. Moore has yet to play due to an Achilles injury. Longino recently suffered a left leg injury and neither is expected to play Friday.

–Field Level Media

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