St. John's Falls at No. 1/1 Villanova

Amar Alibegovic finished with a career-high 18 points to lead the Red Storm.
Feb. 13, 2016

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PHILADELPHIA - St. John's battled No. 1/1 Villanova (22-3, 12-1) deep into the second half before falling 73-63 Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. The Red Storm had four players score double-figures, including a career-high 18 points from sophomore Amar Alibegovic (Rome, Italy) to go with six rebounds.

Wildcats' big man Daniel Ochefu poured in a game-high 25 points converting 11-of-14 field goal attempts. Ryan Arcidiacono added 13 points to help lead Villanova to its fifth-straight win and second victory as the top-ranked team in the nation.

Villanova capitalized at the free-throw line knocking down 23-of-27 (85.2 pct) attempts, while the Red Storm finished 5-of-9 (55.6 pct) at the charity stripe.

"When you play the No. 1 team in the country, you almost have to play perfect," said St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin.

Freshman guard Malik Ellison (Voorhees, N.J.) recorded his third double-figure performance of the season with 11 points, shooting 4-of-6 from the field with a pair of 3s. Durand Johnson (Baltimore, Md.) and Ron Mvouika (Paris, France) each had 10 points in the setback.

Alibegovic gave the Red Storm instant offense off the bench hitting his first of four 3s just six seconds after checking into the ballgame midway through the first half. Mvouika followed with a triple to send St. John's up 9-8 at the 12:30 mark.

The Red Storm outscored Villanova 10-4 in the last five minutes of the opening stanza to get within one at the break. Mvouika and Johnson sank consecutive 3s, and then Ellison made it a 28-27 ballgame with a layup two seconds before the half.

Despite shooting 0-for-11 from distance in the first half, Villanova buried all 10 free-throw attempts and rallied behind Ochefu who made all five field goal attempts before halftime.

St. John's did not let its deficit grow larger than eight in the opening seven minutes of the second half. Alibegovic sank another 3 at 13:57 that made it a five-point game, but Villanova answered with a 7-0 run and slowly pulled away.

Ochefu and Josh Hart had nine boards each to lead Villanova's 37-28 advantage on the glass. The Wildcats scored 34 points in the paint with 22 coming from Ochefu.

"They're a veteran team and well-coached," said Mullin. "Early we had some decent stops, but gave them offensive rebounds which killed us.

"[Daniel Ochefu] is a big part of what they do. [Yankuba] Sima is just getting back in the lineup; he's not in shape to play big minutes. So we played small on [Ochefu] and he kind of had his way."

Freshman center Yankuba Sima (Girona, Spain) had two blocks in seven minutes, playing limited action in just his third game after missing a month due to injury. Classmate Kassoum Yakwe (Bamako, Mali) finished with eight points and five rebounds, while Ellison dished out a game-high five assists.

St. John's (7-19, 0-13) begins a two-game homestand Wednesday against DePaul at Carnesecca Arena. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. with the national telecast airing on CBS Sports Network.

 

 

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