By Martin Heller
Villanova scraped by to a 70-61 win over St. John’s last night, but it wasn’t easy.
The Wildcats had 13 turnovers, two offensive rebounds, and trouble shaking the Red Storm until late on a night the program saluted Kyle Lowry, a five-time All-Star guard for the NBA champion Toronto Raptors.
The Cats improved to 22-6, 11-4 in the Big East.
Saddiq Bey hit four 3-pointers and scored 23 points and Justin Moore had five 3s for 21 points for the Wildcats.
St. John’s came in 12 1/2-point underdogs and kept the deficit within single digits for most of the second half. Greg Williams Jr. buried a 3 for the Red Storm (14-14, 3-12) with 4:37 left that pulled them within six.
Moore, though, steadied the Wildcats with his fifth 3 of the game, a driving layup and a pull-up jumper in succession that stretched the lead to 13 and sealed another win for the perennial Big East power.
“They had guys who made plays,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “We had guys who almost made plays.”
Lowry made plenty of big plays in his two seasons with the Wildcats as one of the early pieces that helped build Wright’s program into a national power.
Lowry was flanked by former teammates and called the jersey recognition honor a “once in a lifetime” experience that he was able to share with his wife and two young sons. His sons, Karter and Kameron, played with the microphones at a halftime press conference.
Lowry played from 2004-2006 when the Wildcats made their first two NCAA Tournament trips of Wright’s young tenure.
“From the time I got here, he was kind of on that proverbial hot seat,” Lowry said. “Now, he’s never going anywhere and he’s one of the best coaches in the history of college basketball.”
Wright has since won two national titles at Villanova and was named the AP Coach of the Decade. Wright has said how Lowry skipped classes and was disruptive at practice, so much so that it got to the point where the feisty guard might not have made it to a second season. Lowry laughed when he recalled his rocky relationship with his coach.
“My freshman year, I was such an immature kid and I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what I wanted or what I could do or what my abilities were off the court,” Lowry said. “I didn’t know what I was, I didn’t know who I was. Me and Coach never talked about basketball. We always talked about these things off the court. That’s why me and Jay, to this day, have the relationship that we have. It wasn’t nothing about basketball. He didn’t worry about me on the court. He worried about me as a man.”