CATS SPLASH FROM DOWNTOWN TO WIN AT THE FINN!

By Harry Allison

Collin Gillespie scored 17 points, Eric Dixon and Caleb Daniels each had 15 and No. 14 Villanova’s 3-point game rolled St. John’s 73-62 at the Finn..

The Wildcats (16-5, 9-2 Big East) blasted the Johnnies with a 19-2 run and nine 3-pointers in the first half to cruise to their third straight win.

The Wildcats open February with consecutive games against ranked teams, Marquette and Connecticut. The Golden Eagles snapped just last week Villanova’s 29-game winning streak at the Pavilion. There are games against ranked Providence and UConn that soon follow in a rugged February.

“The good thing is, you don’t have to say anything to the guys about that,” coach Jay Wright said. “Our mantra is, we keep getting better the next day. It’s actually easier when you know the next team you’ve got coming up beat you. And they’re a nationally-ranked team. It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s human nature. They’re a little bit more dialed in.”

If the Wildcats hit 3s like they did early against the Red Storm (11-8, 3-5), they should be fine.

Villanova was tied 17-all with St. John’s, and then Justin Moore hit a 3 to start the run, one of five 3s during the game-changing charge that put the Wildcats in control. The best sequence during the run came on a Moore 3 off a turnover. The Wildcats then forced a turnover when Gillespie saved a tipped ball by spiking it in bounds. Villanova pounced and Daniels hit a 3 for a 33-19 lead.

“We were moving the ball and making extra passes,” Wright said. “It’s easy to say that as a coach, but when you’ve got guys in, you smacking at the ball, it’s hard to have your head up and see. We had a period there where we had our heads up, making the extra passes and getting the open shots. The rest of the game, we did not.”

The Wildcats made 9 of 12 3s in the first half and led by 18.

“We allowed their guys to really use that 3-point line as a weapon,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said.

Montez Mathis led St. John’s with 14 points The Red Storm missed 10 of 12 3s in the first half and shot just 40% from the floor overall. Julian Champagnie, who led the team in scoring with 19.5 points, was held to just nine and missed all four 3s.

“He’s getting opportunities,” Anderson said. “I’ve got all the faith in him that it’ll come. He’s just in a slump.”

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